As the Aqueduct casino’s opening date approaches, neighboring residents are asking for increased police presence to help mitigate the influx of an estimated 30,000 people each day.
On May 18, Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) sent a letter to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly asking for more officers in the 106th Precinct at the beginning of the new fiscal year.
“Despite the fact that vehicular and foot traffic will increase, it still remains unclear if and when the local precinct will receive additional police personnel,” he wrote. “Undoubtedly, more police officers will be needed to patrol the residential neighborhoods surrounding the [casino].”
Ulrich, who spoke at Tuesday’s Ozone Park Civic Association meeting, said response times for quality of life issues in the 106th Precinct are up, and that the precinct hardly has enough officers to handle current complaints.
“The current staffing levels—in all districts, but especially in our neighborhood—are drastically low,” he said.
Ulrich said that new officers need to be brought into the precinct as soon as possible so they can learn the neighborhood before the casino opens up.
Adding additional officers will be possible thanks to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s recent budget proposal, which calls for a class of 1,400 new cadets to begin NYPD training on July 1, Ulrich said. Previous classes of cadets had been postponed due to a lack of funds.
Patricia McCabe, aide for State Senator Joe Addabbo (D-Howard Beach), said his office has been meeting frequently with Resorts World New York, the Aqueduct casino operator, and that they have also been pushing for more police presence.
“We need them here, and Resorts World is aware of that,” she said.
Police presence hasn’t been the only concern in the neighborhood near Aqueduct.
Several residents at the Ozone Park Civic meeting said they were unhappy that Rockaway Boulevard was now one-way, adding that if visitors exit and enter the casino grounds via the boulevard, congestion could become unbearable. Many were also concerned about Casino Patrons parking in the neighborhoods.
According to McCabe, Resorts World has been very clear that they care about the community, and will do everything they can to mitigate problems, including providing busing and directing traffic away from the Rockaway Boulevard entrance.
“They’ve invested a lot into this project, they don’t want to cause problems,” she said, noting that Resorts World also plans to donate two percent of their profits to neighborhood charity groups.
Both McCabe and Ulrich said that if residents have any problems, they should report them to either the police or Ulrich and Addabbo’s offices.
“If this casino opens up and quality of life stinks, you’re going to see ‘for sale’ signs on every house on the street,” Ulrich said. “Nobody wants that.”
by David J. Harvey