Tuesday night’s regular meeting between the 94th precinct’s residents and police officers came loaded with a clear mandate conveyed through signs posted around the neighborhood and seen earlier this week on utility poles and local blogs. After a remark that Bedford Avenue on New Year’s Eve looked more like Mardi Gras than New York, the presentation compared crime rates between 2010 and 2011, highlighting lowered rates for most major crimes and pointing out that the 94th precinct enjoys the 9th lowest (out of 76) rate for the major crimes that the department is required to report to federal authorities.
The news wasn’t all good, though, and pedestrian strikes and motor vehicle accidents were both up by 63% and 5% respectively. Also mentioned were the two fatalities caused by motor vehicles, a hit-and-run on Calyer and the fatal collision between a drunk driver and a man doing deliveries for the Chinese Musician restaurant. The driver in that case, who lived on the block where the accident occurred, was subsequently arrested and charged with manslaughter. The police also pointed out Greenpoint’s continuing problem with car theft.
While the statistics from the police department were illuminating, the meeting got interesting once the floor was opened for questions. By far the most vocal attendee of the night came with a strongly-worded case against the Production Lounge, whom he claims is responsible for serious and sustained noise issues. The issue seemed to strike a chord with the audience who raised familiar concerns about the changing nature of the neighborhood.
However, new and interesting points were raised in what has become a common discussion on the nature and effects of gentrification and the danger of Greenpoint becoming like “a weekly frat party” or like “the Lower East Side,” to paraphrase examples given at the meeting. One resident pointed out that poor urban planning and a lack of response to demographic trends on the part of the City are directly to blame for some of these issues; while an influx of new residents may not be avoidable, it is certainly exacerbated by poor transit, antiquated zoning, and odd rules that require historic preservation of such things as building facades while allowing for noisy new neighbors.
A perceived lack of response by Production Lounge owner Joe Ariola has certainly contributed to local ire, and this matter may well find its resolution in front of the Community Board 1 liquor licensing committee in the future.
Interestingly, it wasn’t only longtime residents who voiced concerns about noise. Owners of recording studios operating within the Pencil Factory lofts at the corner of Franklin and Greenpoint Avenues, who come under fire themselves for noise at times, pointed out that for legitimate businesses who care for both their neighbors and sound quality within their own establishments, straightforward engineering solutions exist for noise problems. My favorite quote of the evening was from a recording studio owner who said that he was not in business to make noise but to make “music that your kids listen to,” and that business adds jobs and revenue to the community.
Other issues raised included drug-buying Access-A-Ride drivers, the questionable legality of short-term vacation sublets, police response to car break-ins, and coordination between police and community watch groups. I would be surprised if the Production Lounge didn’t see increased scrutiny in the near future and in the meantime residents should continue to call 311 and the precinct with noise complaints. Even if no immediate action is taken, calling 311 helps to establish data on noise patterns and helps guide future planning decisions.