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There's a problem in Brooklyn. I am not an unsympathetic sort, but I have many accumulated reasons to be writing. I know there are many woes in the world at the moment and this is minor among those, but I am taking the bull by the proverbial horns, because this is my neighborhood, I have a child and we can do something about it before the situation further degenerates. That problem is the congregation of vagrant alcoholics and drug addicts that live under the BQE (at the corner of North 7th/8th and—and directly across from the triangle/park and Kellogg's Diner near the Lorimer Subway stop on the L - line). Question: Is it truth or myth that busloads of freed inmates from Rikers island are released at this point? This is something that I have heard for years, but never confirmed.

As our local drug addicts go, they seem to be fairly amiable in the neighborhood they're "camping" in. Apparent "good behavior" is only to be expected - they have been accepted as an unmovable fact by our somewhat apathetic (and sometimes overly empathetic) young community and they wish to remain in this haven of naïve, perhaps romanticized, acceptance.

Our neighborhood has, over the past several years, experienced a marked decrease in criminal activity. But the problem with the vagrancy would not be tolerated in other areas of New York, including any part of Manhattan and we will not tolerate it either. I am no "fascist". But there are certainly programs to get these people off of the street, away from our children and back on proper "tracks".

It must be said that we (a group of concerned parents) have never seen these particular homeless alcoholics and drug addicts commit any violent crimes, or thefts - though we are not the police and it is not our job to watch for this, or be aware if they had. It is, however, our distinct suspicion that burglarized cars parked under the BQE are almost certainly the result of their phenomena.

There are usually around five members totaling the group of homeless addicts at any one time. With a seeming rotation of "who's in the hood". The group is made up of all races, sexes and ages. The most minor of peeves with them is that they harass the neighborhood, on our way home from work, in the form of constant panhandling. But more consequential is the fact that they defecate, urinate, copulate, drink, use, exchange and procure amphetamines, crack cocaine and heroin (among other drugs) openly (sometimes on the stoops of our houses and even on school grounds). They do all of this, at all hours of the day and night and within clear eyesight of both school children and surprisingly enough numerous members of the NYPD who turn a devote blind eye. They leave used heroin "works" all over the ground, where several people's pets have had the misfortune to have stepped on the needles. More importantly, children have picked the needles up (including my own three-year-old daughter)!

Several times, I have been passing (through the needles, broken glass and feces) under the bridge with my daughter and seen the rolled-up sleeves and the track ridden arms in the process of injection. My daughter has seen the opiated slumber of those who have defecated on themselves, or who snore, with a trail of urine leaking from their pant leg towards a nearby drain. It's not like these helpless people are hard to spot. They have what amounts to a living room-lounge set-up under the bridge (most of the time - except for when the street cleaning crew comes). In any case, the "outdoor crackhouse" is easy to see - there are nearly always several mattresses, sometimes even whole beds, blankets and even bedside tables, when the weather is nice. Outdoor alcohol consumption is always evident and never hidden.

Is the clean-up of this situation the job of the Police Department - who frequent Kellogg's Diner (just a block away) and have a clear view of the situation? The NYPD seem to consistently confess powerlessness about the situation. One Officer will say "protest at a town meeting. Don't send a letter 'cause it might not be read by anyone who can do anything about it." While another Officer will say: "Call the 90th Precinct (718-963-5311)" or "Call the 94th (718-383-3879)." There seems to be no officer who thinks it is their personal job to approach the situation without direct orders from above. I know that we all have lots of "more important things" to deal with in the tragic wake of 9/11. But the rapid decrease in our quality of life is something we should not let happen as a result of that catastrophe. We must move forward with civilized life and not let it slip any further - for the sake of our children.

Is it the job of the Schools, or the Parents of Children who go the multitudinous schools nearby? Two schools are actually within blocks of the said area (Northside Catholic Academy and Harry Arsdale Jr. High School). The children who attend these schools regularly pass below the BQE while on their way to and from class and are exposed to the degradation of both their neighborhood and their outlook on life. Aren't there laws about dealing and using drugs near schools?

Is it the job of Environmental and Sanitation Groups and Departments concerned with the spread of diseases? The job of the numerous realtors, renters, businesses, bars and restaurants, who would do well to see a clean face to our area? Is it the job of the multitudinous Religious Groups also in the neighborhood? Who knows? Everyone is "giving" on Sunday. But civilian community service doesn't necessarily include cleaning up a bunch of heathen junkies, does it? I'm sure that the citizens consider it a matter for tax dollars and Police would consider any civilian attempts to be an unwanted "vigilance society". Something nobody wants. The Churches and Temples seem to be able to motivate terrific force when it comes time for the yearly festivals and events. Perhaps between all of these groups, something can be done about this, to further improve the quality of life for the residents and children of this neighborhood and the whole of Brooklyn.

Editor's Note: This was a letter sent to our offices by a concerned parent.



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Free Williamsburg© | 93 Berry Street | Brooklyn, NY 11211
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| January 2002 | Issue 22
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