The Bloomberg administration and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn have brokered a deal that will bring more social services and more police to the West Village, a neighborhood where residents and queer youth who hang out in the Hudson River Park have been at odds over late night noise and crowds.
“The idea is that we have this balanced response and expanded resources,” said Maria Alvarado, a Quinn spokeswoman. “While addressing community concerns is incredibly significant and deterring any criminal activity is incredibly important, we are also supporting these kids.”
Starting on September 1, additional officers from the Sixth Precinct will patrol on Christopher Street, the park and pier at the end of that street, and the surrounding blocks.
The Door, a social services agency that is headquartered on Broome Street, will have an outreach worker on the pier seven days a week to provide the youth there with referrals to services, such as housing or career counseling. The agency will stay open later Thursday through Sunday to give youth an alternative site to pass the time.
The scheme will run through November then start up again in March 2007 and run through June. The program will be evaluated at the end of those seven months of trial.
“This is an issue that the speaker has been aware of and working on for a number of years,” Alvarado said. “We really wanted to develop an effective strategy that would facilitate a safer environment.”
Starting late last year, much of the dispute has played out at meetings of Community Board 2, an advisory body made up of political appointees, though resident complaints are long-standing.
Residents said that when the park closes at 1 a.m., noisy crowds move into the West Village on Christopher Street. Some residents proposed closing the park at 11 p.m. and allowing exits only at 14th Street or Houston Street.
Youth have gathered on the Christopher Street piers dating back decades, and those currently using the park turned out in overwhelming numbers at the board meetings to counter the resident proposals and offer their own solutions, such as closing the park at 4 a.m. to allow people to leave over time and in smaller groups.
For the time being, this latest proposal appears to have satisfied all parties.
While saying he did not have all the details on the proposal, David Poster, president of the Christopher Street Patrol and a longtime West Village resident, said of the increased policing, “If it’s going to be in the Christopher Street area that will be a big help.”
Poster was pleased that the Door was going to be doing outreach on the piers.
“Everybody down here thinks of them as one of the best outreach programs around,” he said. “I personally am very happy that it is the Door that they will be bringing down.”
Poster was among the residents who were left angry and frustrated following the board’s March 23 meeting when it effectively voted to maintain the status quo. Residents saw their months of work result in no change. This latest proposal is welcome.
“I’m very pleased with it so far,” Poster said. “I would think that most residents are going to be very for it... I think everybody is going to be very positive... Everybody wants something done to help these kids.”
Rickke Mananzala, campaign coordinator at Fabulous Independent Educated Radicals for Community Empowerment (FIERCE!), the community group that organized the youth at the community board meetings, said that the proposal could work.
“We think more services are great,” he said though he noted that Broome Street was quite a distance from the piers and added, “We’d kind of like to see more options available on Christopher Street.”
Many of the youth are African-American or Latino, communities that have had rocky relationships with the police, and the queer youth on the piers have also had run-ins with police. An increased police presence was a cause for concern.
“We’re still questioning why more police officers,” Mananzala said. “We have some questions and concerns about when more police officers are added... We want to continue to work with the Sixth Precinct around cultural stuff and sensitivity training.”