Downtowners order police headquarters to disperse

By Priya Idiculla

Downtown residents said Monday they want police headquarters to move out of the neighborhood to make them feel safer.

The Civic Center Residents Coalition, which is fighting the security-related closures around One Police Plaza, rallied in Chinatown and said the move would reopen Park Row and other nearby streets.

“New York can’t be safer, and we won’t be safer if we are in the middle as targets,” said Jan Lee, who lives and works on Mott St. and is a public member of Community Board 3. A sign behind him read: “Lower Manhattan is not safe!  Move the target!  Relocate NYPD Headquarters now!”  

State Senator Martin Connor, who did not attend the rally, agrees with the protestors. “I definitely support moving police department headquarters away from the Downtown Manhattan area,” he told Downtown Express. “It has proven to be a vulnerable area and it should be moved out of harm’s way for the safety of the community and the police department. The fact that Giuliani’s command center was destroyed inside the World Trade Center is proof that keeping headquarters in that vulnerable area is not a good idea. Though it will cost a considerable amount, it is something the city should look into planning over the next five years, for the safety of the people of New York.”

Row is a street that is flanked by residential buildings like Chatham Towers and Chatham Green and connects Chinatown to the rest of Lower Manhattan.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, released a statement, saying moving headquarters was worth considering if police don’t reopen Park Row. “If moving One Police Plaza is the only way that Park Row can be reopened, then this issue should be seriously discussed and fully explored,” he said.

According to the recently-released One Police Plaza Security Plan, the N.Y.P.D. “established security measures in order to protect government facilities in the ‘civic center’ portion of Lower Manhattan which were at the time, and continue to be, considered potential targets.”

“I think they should move to Randall’s Island,” said Danny Chen, a resident of Chatham Green, who has joined lawsuits against the city to reopen Park Row. “Their barricade now is 700 feet away from my window.”

Margaret Fung, executive director of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, which represented tenants in one of the suits, said “the N.Y.P.D. didn’t take a hard look at the environmental impacts of the security zone and streets closing under the state and city environmental laws.”

On October 15, 2004, state Judge Walter B. Tolub agreed and ordered that a full environmental impact statement be done by police.

Community Board 3 is also submitting a proposal to do an independent study of the draft E.I.S., which they find to be faulty.

“This report is an insult to the Chinese community,” said Martin Rosenblatt, who did a business study on the economic impact of the Park Row closure. “The N.Y.P.D. hired a consultant to essentially say there was not an impact on the community and that is false.”

Deputy Police Commissioner Paul J. Browne issued a statement saying “there are no plans to relocate Police Headquarters. Regardless of where Police Headquarters is located, however, security measures would still be required for the Federal facilities in the immediate vicinity. Also, Park Row has been open to significant bus service.”

“This is not the quality of life that we want,” said Jeanie Chin, a resident of Chatham Towers. “If anything this community has been overly patient, and our patience has run out.”  

Councilmember Alan Gerson said he thought residents and police should be able to come to an agreement. “The Police Department and the community need to come to terms with these serious problems that are occurring,” he said in a telephone interview. “ I think it is possible for the situation to be resolved without having to move N.Y.P.D. headquarters, but in the event that there is no chance, then I am willing to consider further action.”