Take rooftop shooters taking potshots at police. Add in young men of color hanging out on the street begging for jobs and opportunities to sell legitimate business ideas. Then factor in the mayor wanting to close the only open community center that serves hundreds of kids – and you get the dire straits of the Louis Armstrong Public Housing complex.
Now add a jump in neighborhood crime, a police change of command at the local precinct and the coming summer when area youth are out of school with no jobs, and it appears parts of Bedford-Stuyvesant is nearing a crisis point.
“Things are getting real bad on Lexington Avenue,” said one police source of the rooftop shootings occurring in the heart of the Armstrong Houses just two blocks from the 79th Precinct the Louis Armstrong Houses is comprised of two developments in close proximity – Armstrong I and Armstrong II. Together, they make up 15 buildings, 617 apartments and about 2,150 residents.
Police sources say late last week gunmen allegedly took about 10 shots from the roof of 370 and 380 Lexington at the police van and NYPD Sky-Cam that have been stationed in front of the buildings for several months.
But local residents on the street say the NYPD was just caught in the crossfire between warring rivals and the shots weren’t fired at them.
“The cops don’t do nothing out here,” said one of several young men dressed in red colors standing near the Sky-Cam in the Armstrong Houses. “They’d rather stop old people outside or lock up people on minor excuses.”
Upon further questioning, two of the young men asked earnestly if they knew of any job opportunities. One young man said he had a clothing design line and asked this reporter if he could help him promote his business.
Meanwhile, Mayor Bloomberg is proposing to close the Police Athletic League (PAL) Children’s Community Center, (495 Gates Avenue) that serves mainly the Armstrong Houses.
The center is filled to near-capacity after school every day and its annual day summer camp programs are filled to capacity. Under Bloomberg’s proposed budget he will cut the center’s Out of School Time award and the PAL Center will be forced to close.
“They’re putting up more (police) cameras while the children in the area are going to suffer,” said Danielle Lynch, the PAL Center’s director.
Lynch and other neighborhood leaders such as 79thPolice Precinct Community Council President Dr. Kim Best are currently circulating petitions to keep the center open. The closure follows an Our Time Press story three weeks ago that found the Armstrong Houses’ other community center, The Grace Havenwaller Learning Center, has been unable to pass a kitchen health or safety inspection for several years.
Neither the Bloomberg Administration nor local City Councilman Al Vann returned calls at press time.
The problems at the Armstrong Houses continue as the 79th Police Precinct, which covers the area, abruptly replaced their commanding officer, Deputy Inspector Peter Bartoszek with Deputy Inspector Michael LiPetri last week.LiPetri comes from running the 101stPrecinct in Far Rockaway.
The new head of the precinct comes as robbery is up nearly 42 percent for the year and overall felony crime is up nearly 18 percent.
Best said she knows LiPetri and he is a good cop, but she also warned that crime is getting much more out of hand.
“They’re robbing bodegas in the middle of the day now,” she said. “People are getting desperate.”