(Middle Village, NY; September 19): After the most violent storm ever to hit New York City, the NYPD decided that the 104th Precinct could handle the chaos of downed power lines, hundreds of trees blocking streets & homes, and thousands of cars spilling off of the clogged Long Island Expressway (LIE).
Immediately after the 5:40pm storm packing 125 mph winds, heavy rain and hail slammed into Middle Village, the 104th Precinct in Ridgewood was notified by Patrol Borough Queens North headquarters that they were to hold 18 special duty officers due to end their patrols at 6:00pm.
As hundreds of calls poured into 911 operators from frantic residents, a call came from NYPD headquarters at One Police Plaza in Manhattan to the 104th Precinct stating that the 18 officers weren't needed and could go home. The result was that Middle Village was left essentially on its own with the normal contingent of precinct officers. On a good day the officers assigned to the104th precinct have their hands full patrolling the maze-like 7.5 square miles. However the night of the storm in Middle Village was anything but good.
As neighborhood streets became overrun with rush hour traffic spilling off the congested LIE and gridlocked Queens & Woodhaven Boulevards, the situation was made much worse with only a token police presence and no one to direct traffic or keep frantic motorists away from blocked roads with downed trees and wires. Most emergency calls to the precinct went unanswered.
Help would not arrive until 6 hours later at midnight when 12 officers arrived from Brooklyn precincts. "The (Brooklyn) officers sat in the precinct for about an hour then were left to make their way through confusing and unfamiliar local streets that challenge even veteran officers of the precinct," said one source. To make matters worse, NYPD patrol cars are not equipped with GPS Navigation Systems.
Touring Middle Village for about an hour, at approximately 2:00 A.M. the 12 Brooklyn-based officers were redeployed to the 112th Precinct in Forest Hills. Again Middle Village residents were left to fend for themselves, most with no power, in a neighborhood devastated with downed trees, dangling electrical wires and tree limbs, and gridlocked roads with frustrated motorists with their car horns blaring.
Many veteran police officers are wondering why a "Level 3" or "Level 4" emergency was never called for Middle Village, the hardest hit neighborhood in the city. A level 3 or 4, if called by NYPD, would bring officers from precincts throughout the city to come to the aid of the 104th Precinct and other precincts affected by the storm.
Robert Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association, called the NYPD emergency response to the crisis as totally unacceptable. "We understand that other areas were hit by the storm but there should be someone in the NYPD that could evaluate the situation and immediately deploy the necessary officers to the hardest hit areas," said Holden.
The Juniper Park Civic Association is calling on the NYPD and the mayor's office to investigate the emergency response procedures immediately after the storm.