Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams hosted an emergency town hall at P.S. 139 in Victorian Flatbush on Thursday, November 20, to address a recent spike in armed robberies happening at small businesses in the community.
The meeting comes after local eateries like Mimi’s Hummus on Cortelyou Road, Lark Café on Church Avenue and Ox Cart Tavern on Newkirk Avenue were robbed at gunpoint within the past month. In addition, there was a home invasion on Rugby Road in mid-October, in which an elderly resident was killed.
Lark Café owner Kari Browne and Mimi’s Hummus employee Anya Shiferson expressed concerns about safety, extra policing and the role gentrification plays in crime in the neighborhood.
“It was a crime that hit a lot of us personally,” said Browne. “It’s been very difficult.”
The Lark owner, who said she employs a racially diverse group of people, believes this is a “complex” issue that doesn’t just boil down to anger between “gentrified” community members and those who have lived there for years.
Shiferson, who was held up at gunpoint and robbed at Mimi’s Hummus, asked the panel of officials, and NYPD officers, why cameras have not been placed on the street where it crosses Argyle Road.
“I can’t tell you how many drugs you can buy just standing there,” said Shiferson. “I want to know why we don’t have cameras at those lights? It’s been years.”
Community Affairs Officer Lieutenant Jacqueline Bourne of the 70th Precinct told the crowd that cops are doing all that they can to “assist the community.
“We have reallocated personnel. We have brought in additional resources to assist us such as the task force unit. We’ve flooded the streets, changing hours, moving people,” Bourne said. “It’s not just your community, it’s our community as well and though you’re feeling it, we’re feeling it just the same.”
Crown Heights resident Sarah Garvey stressed that she has not seen extra officers in the area and that she still feels unsafe walking alone. “Where are these people on the street?” Garvey asked. “This neighborhood deserves experienced law enforcement officials that we can see every day.”
Another Ditmas Park resident who gave his name as Sullivan, said that when some residents “see more police on the street, they feel less safe.
“When we get those extra officers, what that ends up creating is a lot of people getting harassed for minding their own business,” he said. “I’m not interested in seeing something that will make a lot of my neighbors feel less safe and some of my neighbors feel more safe.”
“[The people’s reaction] shows the complexity of this conversation,” Adams responded. “When we have complicated conversations we have to talk to each other and not at each other. I want to make sure that I’m part of the progress of making sure this community continues to be one of the safe places that we can live in.”
Carmen Mason-Browne, a resident of Argyle Road for three years and Kari Browne’s mother, commended the neighborhood on showing up to discuss the issue. “These are markers of a healthy community,” said Mason-Browne. “Apathetic communities don’t show up.”