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Manhattan Panel Joins Calls for NYPD To Retreat From Seized Streets 

6:29 PM EDT on September 3, 2020

Barricades and a so-called NYPD checkpoint outside the 17th Precinct. Photo: Jake Schmidt

An influential Manhattan panel voted Wednesday to demand that the NYPD give back to New Yorkers the streets and sidewalks in front of station houses the department seized months ago — joining a growing push from elected officials, constituents, and safe-street advocates.

Community Board 6’s Transportation Committee — representing Gramercy Park, Turtle Bay and East Midtown — voted unanimously, nine to zero, during its virtual meeting Wednesday night to demand that police take down the barricades in front of the 13th and 17th precincts in the district.

The NYPD commandeered the streets illegally, without asking permission from the Department of Transportation, which controls the public right of way, during the height of Black Lives Matter protests at the end of May. The police are allowed to close areas on an emergency basis, but only for 48 hours, without asking for authorization.

“Closing streets to free access for an extended period without a DOT permit is illegal, and there’s no exception for police,” said Rich Mintz, a Gramercy resident and member of CB6. “It makes me angry to have to pass by this illegal confiscation of public space a dozen times a week.”

Locals and members of the board are fed up with the closed-off streets outside the 17th Precinct, which is on E. 51st Street between Third and Lexington avenues, and the 13th Precinct, which is on E. 21st Street between Second and Third avenues — public space they’ve illegally turned into a parking lot to store their own private cars. The vehicles have racked up dozens of violations for speeding in school zones and going through red lights, Streetsblog has reported.

“They’ve converted nearly all of 20th Street into personal parking for the NYPD,” said board member Ryan during the meeting.

A rep for DOT reiterated that NYPD never asked for permission to block off the streets for their personal use.

“These streets should remain open, they should not be using 20th Street for personal parking,” Colleen Chattergoon told the meeting. “And, no, they did not get permission from DOT.”

Outside the 17th Precinct on E. 51st Street, the NYPD recently raised a banner designating the seized space as an “NYPD Checkpoint.” The cops refused to clarify the purpose of the checkpoint, Patch reported.

CB6 sent a letter to NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea in July requesting police take down the barricades outside the two precincts, but never heard back, according to board member Claire Brennan.

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, State Senator Liz Krueger, and Manhattan Council Members Keith Powers and Margaret Chin, have all called on the NYPD to give back the streets to the people.

The barricades have hurt city businesses that already are reeling from the pandemic. An East Village coffee shop, just feet from the 9th Precinct on E. Fifth Street, blamed the NYPD's barricades for the shop's failure last month, charging that the barriers prevented people from visiting, local blog EV Grieve reported.

"The police barriers at the ends of the block which have greatly restricted foot traffic has probably been the biggest obstacle for the entirety of our opening," said the owners of the now-closed Idlewild Coffee.

Mayor de Blasio claimed last month that the NYPD is retreating from the dozens of streets and sidewalks it seized starting earlier this summer.

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