By Patrick Rocchio
Community leaders and elected officials want to reclaim a small Pelham Bay triangle park taken over by drug and booze addicted vagrants.
They charge that despite previous efforts, Keane Square on Westchester and Buhre avenues has become home to undesireables drinking, smoking pot and using and selling prescription drugs.
The 45th Precinct has assigned its Conditions Unit at various times over the past three years to monitor the benches and war memorial area of Keane Square to check for illegal activity like pot smoking and other anti-social behavior.
The new push comes after the arrest there of Guillermo Quiles, 59, who notched his 47th collar on Thursday, July 26.
Quiles was charged with felony and misdemeanor counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance, according to the official complaint.
He was arrested after police said they observed him handing someone a small object in exchange for money, and was found with an unlabeled pill bottle containing 16 generic Xanax pills.
“I found out that this guy had 46 prior arrests, and I believe that the people who commit violent crimes often have long wrap sheets and many times have been let out time and time again on lesser offenses,” said Councilman Jimmy Vacca. “We need to stop this revolving door, and the judges must be sensitive to the fact that many citizens don’t feel safe on the streets because of these characters who are arrested one day and then back on the street the next.”
The park was re-configured in 2009. New benches with armrests in the middle to prevent sleeping on them were installed. They were also faced outward towards Westchester and Buhre Avenue.
“You have senior citizens who really want to sit there and socialize,” said Vacca, “and that is why those benches are there. “Then you have an assorted bunch of characters who are often drunk or on drugs and who the police have arrested time and time again for assorted infractions.”
While it is a chronic troublesome location, Vacca said the community does not appear to want the benches removed.
“We considered removing these benches altogether, but we got a petition with 400 signatures asking that we not remove the benches,” said Vacca. “I don’t really believe the benches are the problem.”
Judges need to be sensitive to the needs of community members who want to use parks without fear, said Community Board 10 chairman John Marano.
“It will end when they put these guys who have a high number of arrests in jail for longer sentences,” said Marano.
This kind of case is one that shows the need for Senator Jeff Klein’s Courtwatchers Program, said 45th Precinct Community Council president Robert Bieder.
“Two years ago, I was glad to secure funding for a security camera in Keane Square Park,” said Klein. “Since then, those of us in the community, such as the Pelham Bay Taxpayers and the 45th Precinct, have been keeping a watchful eye on the area. While I am pleased that the camera is up-and-running, we must continue to find new ways to ensure that the park is recogized as a safe place in our community.”
Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 742-3393