Brawl traps residents in post office

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Dozens of students from two junior high schools in Springfield Gardens clashed after school last week, trapping several people inside a post office, police said.

Although no major injuries were reported, the incident has prompted school and community leaders, along with the 105th and 113th precincts to monitor the situation and find ways to minimize the number of students on the street at one time, said City Councilman James Sanders Jr. (D-Laurelton), who called an emergency meeting about the incident Friday night.

The fight broke out Oct. 2 between a large group of students from IS 59, at 132-55 Ridgedale St., and JHS 231, at 145-00 Springfield Blvd. The JHS 231 students had come up to 218th Street to catch one of the many buses that stop at that interchange. The bus stop is just a few blocks from IS 59 and in front of the Springfield Gardens Post Office, at 218-10 Merrick Blvd.

During the brawl a number of students from one school were attacking a smaller group from the other school, said Allan Butcher, customer service manager of the Springfield Gardens Post Office. The attacking students pushed the others against the doors and windows of the post office, and some of the post office personnel and customers were able to pull two of the students into the lobby of the building, he said.

“I was trying to lock the door, but the kids kept pulling on it,” Butcher said. “I couldn’t lock the door.”

It took officers 30 minutes to respond to the scene, Butcher said. About 13 calls were made to 911, but there were miscommunications that caused a delay in response time, said Deputy Chief Thomas Mullen of Patrol Borough Queens South.

“This was not one of our stellar performances,” he said. “There was a breakdown between the 911 operators and dispatch. The urgency of that call was never transmitted from 911 to dispatch to the cars.”

In addition to the lack of urgency, officers were directed to the area around the post office but not to the actual facility. Also, officers from the 113th Precinct canceled the call when they stopped to talk to a different group of students, thinking it was the call coming over the radio, Mullen said.

“I apologize to the people in the post office who were waiting for the police to respond,” he said.

It is unclear what or who started the fight, but School Board 29 Superintendent Michael Johnson has suspended two of the four students who appeared to be leaders, he said. He and the school principals still are determining the involvement of the other two lead students.

“This is a street issue, but it’s also something we need to address,” he said at the meeting. “They’re not bad children. Sometimes you get a group and the group may have very unusual behavior.”

Johnson also said the principals and school staff will help police officers move students out of the area. Principals also will be equipped with video cameras to catch students misbehaving and the schools are looking to implement a mediation program to allow students to help each other with problems, he said.

The school district also would like to stagger dismissal times to limit the number of students on the street at one time, Johnson said.

“Every day about 2:30 p.m. we do have a group of kids that hangs out in front of the stores,” Sanders said.

But the fight was just an escalation of a problem that has been growing for some time, said Carol Ramsay, whose daughter goes to IS 59. Students have been gathering along Merrick and Springfield boulevards since the spring, she said.

“This has been brewing since the end of school last year,” Ramsay said. “I pick my daughter up because I don’t want her walking there.”

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at, or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 138.

Posted 7:24 pm, October 10, 2011
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