Police Commander Says Barricades Blocking 82nd Street Are Still Necessary; ‘Clearly the Threat Has Not Yet Passed’

Officers on 82nd Street late last month. Photo by Joy Bergmann.

Some Upper West Siders have been perplexed about why in recent weeks the 20th police precinct has blocked off the entire street and sidewalk on 82nd Street between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues. The precinct sits on that block and officers have been posted at either end of the block. Recently, they were only allowing residents to access the block.

Some locals have said that the barricades have created a safety risk to pedestrians who are forced to walk in the road.

Captain Neil Zuber (pictured below), the precinct’s commanding officer, recently explained why the block is closed off in response to email questions from West Side Rag.

During the first night of the riots most Precincts and other Department facilities began expanding our Stationhouse Security. We’ve done this several times over the years depending on current threats; 9/11, obviously, as well as tragedies like the ambush murders of Officers Ramos and Liu, and any time high-profile events lead to mass demonstrations. By the second day, we knew we needed to take additional steps, and directives from 1PP (headquarters) made it mandatory. Out of necessity, each facility was told to determine its own requirements, since each is uniquely situated.

It’s important to note, if you visit precincts around the city today, you will still see these temporary measures in place. In many instances, they also encompass surrounding blocks, and/or total traffic and pedestrian freezes. As I said, each facility is uniquely situated. Several weeks ago, ABC News did a report on this issue around the city, and received a comment from 1PP, stating in effect that the barriers were necessary and the decision would be made at Headquarters to remove the barriers when it was determined the threat had passed.

Here in the 20th Pct, we learned the hard way just how important these steps were. On the second night of the protests, 10 members of the 20th Pct were mobilized to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, which was one of the epicenters of the unrest. These 20th Pct members were among the first to respond to the attack on the 88th Precinct, where the “10-13’s” (Officer Down/Needs Assistance) were being transmitted from inside the stationhouse. After a prolonged fight, the 88th Precinct was saved from being overrun, and the surrounding area was secured, but at a steep price. Eight of the 10 20th Precinct members at the scene, and many other officers from other commands, needed to be treated at the hospital, and several received severe injuries requiring extensive treatment. Some remained out sick for prolonged periods. This happened even though the 88th Precinct had taken initial steps to secure their stationhouse.

We learned some important lessons there. Among them:

-It was vital to be able to restrict access to the area around the precinct, not just the building itself. As the protesters approached the 88th Pct, the barriers were arrayed in a manner to allow the protesters to easily flow around them and overwhelm the Precinct.
-Our barriers are only effective if they are they are set up prior to their need, and in a manner that they can’t be easily dismantled. At the 88th Precinct, the barriers were used as weapons against the police, and tools to cause extensive damage to personal and private property.
-The barriers have to be set up in a semi-permanent way until the threat has passed. Once the need for the defensive line is necessary, it’s too late to try to set it up.

Although I keep using the 88th Precinct as the example, there are many others. During the first night of the riots, I was deployed to Manhattan South in charge of a Mobile Field Force during the initial mobilization. Our initial deployment was to help secure various precincts, and elements of my MFF were sent to at least four separate Precinct Stationhouses, and several other sites, such as City Hall.

As for the 20th Precinct itself, I made the decision to place a barrier line at each end of our block. These barriers were anchored at every available place to permanent structures, such as poles, trees, and railings, and fastened together to prevent them from being easily dismantled and used as weapons and tools to damage property. A second line was then established closer to the stationhouse in each direction, far enough away that the Molotov cocktails which were used early in the riots couldn’t be effectively thrown at our building. We took several further measures that are not nearly as obvious. For example, we had the assistance of many building superintendents and businesses on the surrounding blocks, to constantly sweep the area for loose masonry, bottles, signs, garbage cans, etc. that could be used as missiles by protesters.

I have frequently been asked if this was all necessary. My answer is always, “Yes, absolutely.” There have been literally dozens of individual times, as recently as five nights ago, officers on patrol had to race back to 82nd Street and man the barriers at either end of the block moments before large groups of protesters arrived. It would not have been possible to set up the barriers in the short amount of time available to them.

I know this is a long-winded answer. I’m trying to provide substance to show that it wasn’t a decision taken on a whim, and serves a purpose I wish we didn’t require. Among other things, it’s a drain on manpower. However, it has been extremely effective. We know we are a potential target for protesters and the people who want to cause damage. We have a responsibility to protect the lives and property of the residents on our block. Our location is one that if a large group of protesters congregates on our street, reinforcements and medical aid would not be able to get to the stationhouse or any private residence on the block.

I am happy to say we have not taken a single report of private property damage around the stationhouse during this time. However, as you know, last week a 20th Pct vehicle was vandalized and set on fire on 83rd Street. Clearly the threat has not yet passed.

NEWS | 52 comments | permalink
    1. Matty Why says:

      Maybe I missed it, exactly what riots have taken place on the UWS in the last month?

      That logic makes as much sense as me claiming this rock keeps tigers away.

      • UWSer says:

        Yes. But per the last sentence there has been no property damage around the stetson house. That’s great. I’m really glad 82nd street is safe. What about the other 65 blocks? I mean it would be terribile of the station house had a rock thrown at it

    2. Joey says:

      Excellent explanation Capt. Zuber. I hope you can soon reinstitute the Anti Crime Team.
      Broken Windows Policing is the real Community Policing

    3. Elbo says:

      Even by NYPD standards, this is an incredible load of BS.

    4. Jimmy says:

      Just in case the peaceful protests “intensify”, like in Portland.

      • John says:

        Robbery, assault, arson and property damage are peaceful as long as they happen to non-woke folks did you not get the memo?

    5. Name Withheld For Obvious Reasons says:

      NYPD is full of thin-skinned, paranoid, authoritarian, racist cry-babies.

      Cops are still moist from the repeal of 50-a recently and they’re terrified that their disciplinary records are being published.

      Only solution to this problem is to decertify the existing police unions (PBA, SBA, etc.) and start from scratch.

      • Retired NYC Teech says:

        Since WHEN is the NYPD our enemy?
        The NYPD did NOT kill Mr. Floyd, Ms. Taylor, or any of the other victims of police brutality (yes, we pause here to honor Eric Garner, Sean Bell, etc).
        But, do the actions of a very few bad NYPD officers warrant labeling ALL NYPD officers as killers?
        Really? Then does the rare inept doctor, dentist, lawyer, teacher, etc. mean that ALL doctors, dentists, lawyers, teachers, etc. are inept??
        Sure hope your answer is “No”.
        P.S. Thank you, Captain Zuber, for your very detailed explanation.

        • Sarah says:

          Their own run wild on camera over and over again. Do you need a link to the supercut of police brutality during the protests? The NYPD is well represented.

          If you’re charged with the immense responsibility and concomitant authority of law enforcement in this country and you turn away when your colleagues violate that sacred trust, you’re a bad cop, too. Period. The NYPD has demonstrated thoroughly during this period that they are more interested in securing their own impunity than in properly disciplining the employees we compensate handsomely to keep the peace when they behave like two-bit punks and thugs. If I attacked someone without justification in the course of MY job, I’d lose it. I bet you would, too. Who placed the cops above us?

    6. Steve says:

      The vehicle may have been vandalized because local residents are tired of police vehicles and private vehicles owned by 20th pct officers being parked illegally all over the adjacent area. Cars are parked in front of fire hydrants and in active traffic lanes. The law applies to everyone except police officers.

    7. bill says:

      now the cops are running scared…this city gets more bizarre by the day and I dont see anyway back,any changes back will be tied up in the courts for months/years.

    8. Josh P says:

      “the NYPD is required to obtain DOT approval for suspending traffic rules longer than 48 hours” https://gothamist.com/news/nypd-continues-barricade-streets-near-police-stations-because-riots

      Has the DOT approved this street closure or is the NYPD operating outside the law, again?

    9. HelenD says:

      How about bringing some of those barricades down to 79th street and/or 72nd street and posting police officers there? There’s an overflow of aggressive men who have joined the homeless encampment on 72nd. Why don’t the rest of us have the right to feel safe to walk through our own neighborhoods?

    10. CrankyPants says:

      Thank you for your service, Officers. I know you have your hands full & hope you stay safe and well as you can continue to try and protect us from everything being thrown at our poor neighborhood these days.

      • Charly says:

        If you want them to “stay safe” and protect us, they could start with wearing masks as mandated by state law and as the vast majority of UWSers do. They repeatedly fail to do so no matter how close they are to each other or members of the public. It’s clearly an unsafe practice and an obnoxious flouting of the law they are supposed to abide by and enforce. If they want the public to respect them, they have to respect the people they are supposedly serving. (The picture is a month old when they pandemic was worse in NY, during which time a female office told me “it was over” and she “was not required to wear a mask on the job.”)

        • NotImpressed says:

          Cops are the one demographic I see that almost never wears a mask.
          Look at the picture on the article about a guy getting suckerpunched at Pappardella. The responding cops aren’t wearing masks.

    11. johnnyc says:

      I was born in New York City, grew up in a Fairfield County suburb, and live in New York City. One thing I learned is that the Connecticut I grew up in was a more democratic place than New York City or New York State because it did not have this Us versus Them mentality.

      I don’t know if Connecticut is still like that, but I know that New York suffers from more class division than the place where I grew up, and that the result is that you get a corrupt police force like New York’s that sees a division between themselves and the citizens they work for.

      • cat says:

        With pervasive and idiotic Democrat Party policies – Connecticut has become just as looney as NYC and NY – the same egregious budget problems too.

    12. Kevin S says:

      1) The NYPD views their job as occupying NYC not being part of the community. These are the words of someone planning trench warfare not policing.

      2) The way he sloppily conflates riots with protestors says A LOT.

      3) It’s been 2+ months since the nights where things got really out of control in large sections of Manhattan, if now is not “enough time”, when will it be? After 9/11 many temporary security measures became permanent. I expect that here as well.

    13. Brian says:

      Maybe the cops standing there should be wearing masks? Maybe they shouldn’t have a car idling there 24/7? Maybe they shouldn’t even be there at all? I was told to “have a nice day” in a sarcastic and condescending tone after a maskless cop told me I wasn’t allowed to walk down the street last week.

      I feel bad for the people who live on that block as well as Flame who have to deal with this every single day.

    14. MB/UWSer says:

      There are protesters and there are agitators.

      This current situation is as serious as COVID-19 in the very beginning stages – wear a mask, shelter in place in effort to reduce sickness. Many people chose to ignore the early signs and instructions.

      It is not a time to express whatever dissatisfactions, attitudes – it’s a time to listen (read this with understanding) with regard to this situation. As members of this community, it is ever important to take this news seriously. Respect goes a long way.

      What can we do to help our entire community before this situation goes too far (just as the virus did here)? Serious thoughtfulness of this situation can help pave the way to positive solutions. Disgruntled attitudes make solving important issues much more difficult and come with loss, whether is is property or lives.

    15. Sarah says:

      Where is the PD’s legal authorization to arrogate to themselves control of city streets and sidewalks indefinitely? And do they think their fortress mentality is going to improve community relations?

      Sooner or later, this attitude is going to lead to the election of a mayor with a mandate to make them servants of the people again, but some of the force has such an ugly entitled attitude they can’t even see it.

    16. HZ says:

      well said!!

    17. Josh P. says:

      He never comes close to answering the question – when will these barriers come down? What milestones need to be achieved before the streets can be returned to the people who actually live here? “Indefinitely” isn’t an answer.
      Instead, we get 10 paragraphs about why the NYPD is so afraid of the Upper West Side that they need to live inside a bunker on 83rd St.
      If the neighborhood is so dangerous that the police (who have guns and tear gas and helicopters) need this level of protection, what are they doing to protect the rest of us? Captain Zuber doesn’t have a word to say about how he’s protecting the neighborhood – just his officers.
      The NYPD exists to serve the neighborhood, not the other way around.

    18. HZ says:

      What riots???? That was months ago…in Brooklyn! They’re just enjoying their extra sidewalk parking!

    19. GG says:

      This is basically just a big “F U” to the neighborhood.

      It is just that simple. NYPD has been moping around for months now, trying to punish us for the perceived lack of support.

      • Dave K. says:

        I want to say thank you to our police who have protected us to their detriment, especially now when we need even more protection. Funny, none of my colleagues on this board are wondering when this pandemic is over who will guard us against terrorism, does anyone remember 9/11, etc…. the fundamentalists are just licking their chops… maybe we can get community organizers to talk to them, is anyone getting this?

      • Absolutely correct. This is such bullshit. BTW, I haven’t seen a single cop patrolling B’way between 72nd and 96th. The only time they showed up was for a peaceful BLM protest last month at the 96th St. subway stop. And guess who the biggest violators of the mast rule are? Yes, the NYPD.

    20. Evan Bando says:

      Yet more victimology and bunker mentality from those who choose to see the community around them as the enemy based on a few nights and a tiny group of trouble makers. You want to be empathetic towards the NYPD (they are there to protect us, after all) but their my-way-or-the-highway approach to important and reasonable reform is small-minded, short-sighted and alienating. This link is worth a read to get a better idea of what is going on here. https://bit.ly/33BDs1b

      • Dissident says:

        @ Evan Bando:

        a few nights and a tiny group of trouble makers

        1.) You vastly understate and minimize the reality.
        2.) The non-violent participants and endorsers provide cover and legitimacy for the violence– wittingly as well unwittingly.
        3.) The protests are based upon a tendentious, incendiary, hateful narrative that is not supported by the facts. (See, e.g., Heather MacDonald)
        4.) A tiny drop of poison can contaminate an entire container of wholesome food or drink.

    21. jimbo says:

      Maybe the barriers will never come down.Who cares?????????????????????????????????????

    22. Upperwestslider says:

      The officers of the 20 are the most compassionate and diverse group of officers who care deeply about the community. Whatever they feel they have to do to protect themselves and their building is fine with me. I wish them only good health and good luck in their effort to protect themselves while protecting our community.

    23. Ella says:

      Thank you for your service. You have my wholehearted support. Stay safe.

    24. Brenda says:

      I feel safer having the police barricaded in their precinct rather than sitting in their patrol cars playing on their phones (eye roll)

      • Dissident says:

        I feel safer having the police barricaded in their precinct rather than sitting in their patrol cars playing on their phones (eye roll)

        When proactive and effective against crime, police are condemned as “racist” by people like Brenda, GG, Douglas S. Garr, and countless others who parrot The Narrative. Careful examination of facts and due process be darned. When police then respond, as any non-suicidal individual only could, by taking a more passive approach, crime inevitably spikes. Guess who is blamed? “Racist indifference because the victims are black!” shout the agitators. Darned if they do, darned if they don’t.

    25. NotImpressed says:

      The New Yorker has a great article about police unions and their influence on attitudes and practices of officers.

    26. Stephinny says:

      Protests are not ‘riots’

      • ERodman says:

        Yes, BIG riots: exercising free speech is now a threat akin to rioting. And, problems in one area of a DIFFERENT borough means that people who live on the Upper West Side cannot access their sidewalks – for MONTHS at a time… And excuse me but NONE of the cops who man those barricades on the block have been anything other than completely bored. Maybe if they were out on the streets doing what used to be called patrolling, they’d head off problems like hoodlums setting cars on fire…!

    27. Michael UWS says:

      The Liberal Fragility is strong with the crowd here in the Leave A Comment section very likely bussed in progressives anti law & order outside agitators lol. Seriously we have seen the ‘videos’ and everything 110% the rioting iprotesters received in pushback is fully warranted legally morally and constitutionally. NYC has one of the best policing outfit in the nation. And you hand wringers should be ashamed of yourselves in the morning. City Hall has yet to redress its defacto antagonism toward NYPD the men and women of the 20th Precinct are entitled to command and control of access & approach to their HQ. Wow wtf is your problems? Out of nowhere one of us was punched out by a homeless psycho yesterday on Col. Ave. But the cluelessly oblivious to reality hostile & intellectual lightweight comments are an indication as well why the precaution is both warranted & continued and y’all might as well be BLM cheerleaders. This is a reality created by incompetent executive leadership from the mayor and the Council. We all know it and oppose the direction this city is taking. Please have a safe summer and geta life.

    28. Mark says:

      I live on 82nd street, and I have watched what has gone on at the precinct. Never, not at the height of the protests and riots was there ever a disturbance or threat anywhere near the precinct.

      Blockcading the street is an act of hostility to the community. These barricades make life difficult for people who live on the street.

      Why do the police insist on doing pointless, stupid things that insult and antagonize the community?

      Please take down the barricades.

    29. Elizabeth says:

      Thank you officers for doing your job in the face of such an ungrateful community. We honor and appreciate your efforts to make our community safer. Thank you for putting yourselves in harms way to protect the rest of us!

    30. jct says:

      I live on 82nd Street and I have never seen or heard any “protestors” or “rioters” anywhere near here. Granted, I am not outside at all times. I have come into contact with the officers when we come and go on our block. A couple of times they ask if we live on the block but never ask for proof. Most times they ignore us and aren’t even cordial. These officers almost never wear masks, showing their lack of respect and protection for the residents.

    31. Police Barricades says:

      I find it absurd to see the overwhelming amount of anti-police sentiment in these comments. Why should the entire police force be blamed for the egregious wrong doings of a few select policemen such as the Derek Chauvin’s of this world? I believe that the majority of the police are good, hard working people. To blame an entire profession for the unjust acts of a very small minority is wrong & entirely ignorant. Every profession under the sun from A to Z has good & bad players. Unless you have been living under a rock for the last several weeks, the 20th precinct is 100% justifiable in erecting barricades to protect themselves. I wholeheartedly support their decision in doing so. The police in NYC have had bricks thrown at their heads, been run over by protesters, been mobbed while in their vehicles, have had Molotov cocktails thrown in their vehicles, been badly bloodied & beaten by protesters, have had their brake lines cut by protesters. All the while receiving zero support from mayor DeBlasio who actively encourages polarization. To all of you whiny, complaining snowflakes out there, get a grip. If having to walk around a barricade or park your car another block away is your biggest complaint in life then consider yourself lucky. God help you all if you ever have to deal with a real problem in your lifetime.

    32. Viv says:

      Most of these comments are totally irrelevant.

      Do you want to be left with a completely impotent police force, afraid to police for fear of being attacked or accused of a crime?

      Will anyone answer your 911 call either for a crime being committed or for an urgent health issue?

      That thought frightens me.

    33. L M M says:

      I think the picture shown and the LAX stance of the two officers gives off the wrong impression that the barriers are not as important as they are being portrayed, because if it were these two officers would be more PROFESSIONAL in their attire and not just hanging out wasting time

    34. k . l says:

      Mirror Mirror on the Wall….: The Police “statement” published is yet another rationalization by Police after the fact: it represents far less than optimal police choices in a large complex city.If the only way to protect property v. citizens in the vicinity of a station is to barricade it: then we can expect alot more trouble!

    35. RL says:

      I’m more upset by the waste of resources used to block off that Trump Hotel near Columbus Circle – at times making cyclists ride into Broadway traffic to get to CPW when Police make barricades around the place impassible. Does DT live there – no? So why all the security – maybe they should change the damn name?

    36. UWS Resident says:

      So the people here who we pay to serve and protect us are essentially… scared?