Security Beefed Up At Rockaway Park Halfway Houses
The community board, local community activists, business owners and politicians have tried everything in their power to prevent halfway house residents from taking over Beach 116 Street, harassing people for money and, some say, becoming overall public nuisances. Those locals found that nothing seemed to work, and the store owners on the street began to complain that the halfway house residents were chasing valuable customers away from the street. Narco Freedom, an organization that leases the halfway houses from their owner, Jay Deutchman, met recently with Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder and 100 Precinct Community Council President Danny Ruscillo and agreed to provide a security detail and round-the clock counselors at their Rockaway properties in an effort to tighten security and reduce problems on the shopping street.In an attempt to address the quality of life issues associated with the facilities, the 100 Precinct recently designated an officer whose primary duty is to patrol Beach 116 Street in order to prevent the aggressive type of panhandling that the locals complain about and that are driving away business. The security detail has been in place for three weeks, and locals say that no incidents associated with the homes have been reported, Ruscillo told The Wave. So far it’s working, he says, but time will tell how well it works in the long-term. The owner of the two half-way house complexes is Jay Deutchman. One of his properties is at the tail end of Beach 116 Street and the other on Beach 114 Street. Officials say he previously showed little to no interest in beefing up security or controlling the inhabitants, all of whom are supposed to live in the buildings with strict curfews that should have them in the building at either 9 or 10 p.m.
The Bronx-based Narco Freedom specializes in providing treatment options for people suffering from alcohol and substance abuse. The tenants of these two properties attend outpatient services during the day and must now meet curfew guidelines enforced by the security patrol. “We rather not have them here at all,” Ruscillo said. “But this might be the best we can do. If they are going to be here, hopefully the security helps to avoid the type of incidents we had in the past.” The struggle to clean up the properties date back more than a year. A resident of the Rockaway Park Hotel was arrested last year for allegedly threatening someone with a box cutter inside the Beach 116 Street MTA public bathroom. Reports consistently circulated from angry business owners who say their customers were frightened to shop on the commercial strip, fearful of being harassed by intimidating and aggressive panhandlers. Last August several agencies organized by Community Board 14 inspected the two properties and found a series of varied violations, but nothing severe enough to warrant the closing of the houses.
The board had planned for months to get the city agencies together in hopes of finding enough violations in order to issue a vacate order.
But moving forward, in addition to the added security, CEO of Narco Freedom, Alan Brand, agreed to meet on a monthly basis with Goldfeder and Ruscillo to keep up with any problems or concerns that may arise even with the security team in place.