New NYPD Transit Commander Outlines Challenges Ahead
Transit District 23 is enormous. It covers three police precincts - the 100 and 101 in Rockaway and the 106 in Howard Beach. It has jurisdiction over all of the stops on the Rockaway line, Broad Channel, Howard Beach, Lefferts Boulevard, Aqueduct Race Track, and everything up to and including 80th and Hudson Streets, just before the A-train heads underground.
The new commander, Captain Phylis Byrne, comes to Transit 23 after being at Transit District 20, where she was promoted to Captain at the end of 2005 and served as the executive officer for more than a year.
"When the command opened up, Inspector Michael Bryan, [commander of Transit Borough Queens], James Hall [Chief of Transit] and Commissioner Ray Kelly put me here," said Byrne. "I'm thrilled they had faith in me to come here."
With safety and quality of life in the transit system her top priority, she works closely with the commanders of the three precincts - 100, 101 and 106 - to ensure that goal.
"All three reached out to me and offered assistance," said Byrne, who said she is thrilled to be in the Rockaways.
"Each precinct has its own challenges," said Byrne, who spoke about the distinct ones facing the Rockaway precincts.
"The main focus for the 100th is the beach crowd," she said, pointing out Broad Channel is a hub for activity. "It's a big focus for Captain [Charles] Neacy [commanding officer of the 100 Precinct]. We try to supplement his coverage and coordinate with him.
"He lets me know when I can expect large crowds coming back to the station and I can assign more officers."
The 101 Precinct covers the Mott Avenue to Frank Avenue (Beach 44 Street) stations.
"Any kind of condition Captain Brian McMahon [commander of the 101 Precinct] is having we try to supplement, or any crime that needs to be addressed that involves transit, he'll let me know right away," she continued.
In her 15 years in the NYPD, Byrne has had a broad range of assignments.
"I was in organized crime control as a lieutenant, including narc and vice; regular patrol; and as a sergeant I was with the investigation unit for internal affairs," Byrne explained.
Even though she acknowledges that the area can be "somewhat isolated," especially since her command is probably the largest in Transit, she is immensely impressed by the involvement of residents with the police.
"Rockaway residents are involved with what goes on and are supportive of the police," she said. "They will call in information and also bring problems to our attention before something becomes bigger."
She also says she was welcomed with open arms when she arrived.
"I got a fantastic reception," she recounted.
Since assuming her position in April, she has been to precinct community council meetings in each precinct at least once, as well as attending many community events - including the 100 Precinct's National Night Out Against Crime earlier this month.
"The people really care about their community. They want to make a difference, and it makes our jobs easier."
She would like to continue the proactive policy of Commissioner Kelly, Chief Hall and Inspector Bryant.
"Our crime prevention officer Glenn Lewter does ID etching at events," said Byrne about residents safeguarding such things as bikes and cell phones.
Being proactive also involves heading off little problems before they become big ones.
NYPD brass has clearly endorsed Byrne as a strong leader, but she showed The Wave that she has a softer side, too. As the interview for this story began, Byrne pulled out pictures of her baby - Beijing, the dog she lost just as she took command of Transit 23 on April 9.
"She was 14 years old," said Byrne, about the companion who passed away in April.
Byrne said she used to bring Beijing to a hospital in Staten Island where the pet would act as a therapy dog to help lower the blood pressure of severely injured patients.
Byrne, who regularly gives to such causes as the Humane Society, also has a cat, but she said she isn't ready to get a new dog, just yet.
While this assignment marks her first time in Rockaway, Byrne knows a lot of people in the area.
"I have a lot of friends and family and co-workers who are out in the Rockaways," said Byrne. She discovered just how many people she knows here when her photo was in The Wave for the first time, earlier this year.
"After the picture appeared in The Wave, I got more phone calls and notes from co-workers, relatives and friends telling me they were thrilled I was out in Rockaway."
Byrne is preparing to walk down the aisle in September, when she will wed John Driscoll, head of the Captain's Endowment Association. The couple recently purchased a home on Long Island.