Neighborhood NYPD Meetings Have ‘a Long Way to Go’

P.O. Joseph Vincent addressing the crowd attending the first 6th precinct NYPD Build The Block meeting for sector Charlie in Greenwich Village. The meeting took place on the evening of April 18th in space provided by Saint Johns Lutheran Church on Christopher Street. In attendance were about 25 residents of the area. P.O. Joseph Vincent, P.O.Nicholas Virgilio and their Boss Sargent Christopher Carlsen conducted the meeting. Some topics discussed at the meeting were late night noise by neighbors, street vendors, pan handlers, package thefts, drug sales, people riding bicycles on sidewalks, noisy kids on stoops late at night. (Photo by Adi Talwar via City Limits)

Meetings held by the NYPD at the local neighborhood level, known as “Build the Block,” aim to strengthen ties between police and local residents and build trust, including among youths and critics of the force. However, in meetings observed by City Limits’ Roshan Abraham and Angely Mercado, attendees were for the most part older English-speaking residents with quality-of-life concerns – resulting in meetings that resemble those of community boards or precinct councils.

Another group absent from the meetings were street vendors.

With the number of vending licenses capped, an estimated thousands of vendors operate without a formal license. Stories from the community and ethnic media have detailed the frustrations faced by vendors over fines and police harassment. Those who show up at the meetings tend to come from the other side. According to City Limits:

The NYPD says they only act against vendors because of calls from community members, mostly representatives from Business Improvement Districts and restaurants who fear food vendors will take business from them. And some of these business interests have been making their cases at Build the Block meetings, where they have the ear of police officers.

Matthew Shapiro, the lawyer of Eliana Jaramillo, a 69-year-old street vendor for more than 30 years in the city, said that vendors may not even know about the meetings and as they work long hours, often do not have the time to attend them. A BID, on the other hand, “might have a spokesperson whose job it is to attend meetings.”

Save for one event where the officer in charge spoke a few lines of Spanish, none of the Build The Block Meetings attended by City Limits had Spanish language translators, something Shapiro said had been an issue in communication between vendors and NYPD.

Those doubtful of so-called community policing programs say the initiatives “miss the mark by asking communities how they would like to be policed, rather than asking if the police are the appropriate tool for certain problems.” Many food vendors say such outreach efforts “are meaningless without decreased enforcement.”

Vendors say they’re in a limbo created by regulations out of their control and enforced too rigidly; they’re fearful of police and reluctant to turn to them for help.

Go to City Limits to hear from a vendor who describes how enforcement in 2018 has stood out for her in the nearly 20 years she has been working, the way she and fellow vendors “try to protect each other,” and much more on how the NYPD’s Build the Block meetings still have “a long way to go” in establishing trust and cooperation within many communities.

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