New York, NY—For the first time in five months, Sutton Place residents had a chance to meet with their neighborhood coordination officers from the 17th Precinct to discuss their public safety concerns.
The meeting occurred earlier today at Sutton Place Park on East 55th Street, which was attended by at least 40 residents. Police Officer Kenneth Feeley was joined by his fellow coordination officers, including Police Officer Brittany Postiglione, in responding to the residents’ concerns and proposals to improve the quality of life in Sector C, which runs from 52nd Street to 59th Street between Lexington Avenue and FDR Drive.
The meeting kicked off with a question from a couple of residents who asked whether the city can install a red-light camera on East 54th Street and Sutton Place to capture the license plates of vehicles who are going through the light when it is red.
“Cars go through the light because it’s a very, very long light. Cars are tempted to go through again, again and again. Giving out a few tickets would get the word out,” said a Sutton Place resident.
Officer Feeley said he would forward the request to the Department of Transportation, but he informed the resident that the precinct would have to show cause or a pattern of collisions and pedestrians being struck to warrant the installation of a red-light camera.
Just one block south, at East 53rd Street, is a Stop sign for cars to make a right-hand turn, but they are competing with cars exiting the ramp off the FDR Drive, and they sometimes exit the ramp at a high speed. Some residents said that cars don’t always come to a full-stop at the Stop sign, which is just an accident waiting to happen, especially in light of the construction that has been ongoing at the River House.
Feeley added that when he’s on tour he notices cars pick up in speed as they drive along Sutton Place from East 59th Street to East 53rd Street and that they may sometimes miss the Stop sign, compelling one resident to say that maybe the city should install a flashing yellow light so that there is something more visible to drivers.
Nonetheless, there is at least one patrol car that is parked adjacent to Clara Coffey Park daily monitoring that stretch for a couple of hours, according to Officer Feeley.
Bicyclists proved to be a hot topic. Residents asked if the police can write summonses for bicyclists who are riding the wrong way, riding on the sidewalk or speeding through the streets.
Officer Feeley noted that bicycle enforcement is a bit more tricky than other types of enforcement.
“The issue with enforcement with bikes is that it’s hard. Even if you are standing on the corner, it’s hard to stop bicyclists safely for them and for us to warn them, admonish them or give them a summons,” he said.
Another resident then said that bicyclists are supposed to be adhering to the same vehicle laws and subject to the same citations as automobiles.
But Officer Feeley noted that if he’s driving along First Avenue with traffic, and he spots a bicyclist riding at 30 mph in the opposite direction, he can’t just abruptly make a U-Turn to safely stop the bicyclist.
The resident then asked if the patrol car can radio a nearby patrol car to nab the bicyclist.
But Officer Postiglione said it just doesn’t work that way.
“We have an entire team that is dedicated to writing summonses to vehicles and bicyclists, but we can’t just call over the radio to say to another unit that we saw someone at 54rd and 3re Avenue, go drive down to 56th Street and stop them there.”
But that response still compelled another resident to say if more tickets were written, word would get around fast.
To which Officer Feeley said that the 19th Precinct, compared to some other precincts in Manhattan, writes some of the highest number of bicycle summonses.
“Can you confiscate a bike?” another Sutton Place resident asked.
“No, it would be like if you went through a red light, we’re not going to take your car away,” said Officer Feeley.
The difficulty with bike enforcement, he said, is that you don’t need a driver’s license to ride a bike.
“If I issue you a summons, there’s no enforcement mechanism to get you to pay the summons. It might stop you from doing it again, but how do I get you to pay for that summons.”
Just as Lenox Hill residents have recently voiced their displeasure in their Build the Block meetings with the 19th Precinct with the rollback of $1 billion in spending for the NYPD, several residents asked what can they do as private citizens to restore the $1 billion spending cut.
Officer Feely said to make sure they contact their elected leaders.
In addition, Sutton Area Community President, Charles Coutinho, weighed in.
“What you can do is contact City Councilman Ben Kallos and City Councilman Keith Powers, who in the past have been quite happy to associate themselves with the police and remind them of that fact.
"And, hopefully lobby and vote in the City Council to restore funding for the police, which I’m sure everyone here wants to have more money and more resources for the NYPD,” said Coutinho.
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