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Reps talk safety at Jackson Heights Town Hall

State Sen. Jose Peralta speaks to attendees of a town hall concerning neighborhood safety at the Jewish Center of Jackson Heights.
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Concerned Jackson Heights residents gathered at the Jewish Center of Jackson Heights last week for a town hall about gang violence and neighborhood safety that was organized by Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) and state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst).

The meeting was called after a recent incident in Travers Park, at the corner of 77th Street and 34th Avenue. An 18-year old was playing basketball in the northeast corner of the park at about 8:10 p.m. May 9 when he was approached by seven to 10 men and was stabbed by one of them. He was transported to a hospital in stable condition, according to police. The perpetrator has not yet been arrested.

“Travers Park is the only park around here, and there’s no reason we should lose this park to gangs or anyone who wants to hurt our kids,” Peralta said. “We want to ensure these stabbings do not become the norm.”

The heavily attended meeting also included representatives from the Queens District Attorney’s Gang Violence and Hate Crimes Unit and the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, as well as officials from the Department of Education’s Gang Prevention and Intervention Unit and the Parks Department.

Capt. Nicola Ventre, the executive officer of the 115th Precinct, which patrols Jackson Heights, said community members needed to report suspected incidents of crime or gang activity. He said that most of the gang activity in the area involved street narcotics, robberies and larcenies,

After each speaker introduced himself or herself, audience members asked questions. Representatives from the Parks Department said Travers Park did have a 9 p.m. curfew, while Ventre said the NYPD had put more plainclothes officers into the parks in the evenings.

Peralta and Dromm both spoke about the need for a community center for youth in the area. Peralta said he had been in communication with the Boys and Girls Club, but that the organization would need a space of 25,000 square feet or greater to build an entirely new center.

Dromm stressed that community members could help to volunteer in multiple ways, including working at the Big Brothers/Big Sisters office on 82-11 37th Ave., which he said was “desperate for volunteers.”

“Where we really need to intervene to prevent this kind of thing from happening is at the lower grade levels,” he said, noting that kids were sometimes being recruited for gangs as young as in third or fourth grade. “Those are kids looking for someone to take care of them, to fill a void. We need more programs to fill that void.”

Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdonachie@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

Updated 1:35 pm, June 2, 2016
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