By Joy Bergmann
Earlier this week, the First Baptist Church stretched a “No Trespassing” sign and chain across its steps on the northwest corner of W. 79th and Broadway.
“The House Committee and the pastor put it up in conjunction with the precinct,” a church spokesperson tells WSR. “There’s been a lot of loitering, drinking, fighting…it was put up to [mitigate] all that.”
People have long used the steps as a place to sit for extended periods of time. The corner has also seen recent acts of violence.
Two women were violently assaulted on December 2nd.
On December 14th, a man known to the group that frequents the steps allegedly attacked several men with a golf club, an NYPD spokesperson confirmed. On that afternoon, WSR witnessed one of the victim’s injuries; EMTs had wrapped his head with gauze, but blood continued to drip down his face. He told WSR he didn’t want to go to the hospital for treatment.
“It’s getting out of control,” says Dale Brown, President of the West 79th Street Block Association.
At multiple 20th Precinct Community Council meetings this fall, residents asked for an increased NYPD presence at the corner. And at the Community Board 7 January meeting held this past Tuesday, a resident again expressed concerns about safety at 79th and Broadway. A representative from the 20th Precinct did not attend the CB7 meeting to answer her questions.
Looking ahead, it’s unclear what legal force the “no trespassing” sign will wield.
On Monday, new Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg issued a policy letter to his staff that included a list of offenses they will no longer prosecute under ordinary circumstances unless a case also includes at least one felony count. Among them: “Trespass, PL §§ 140.05, 140.10, 140.15, unless the trespass is a family offense pursuant to CPL § 530.11, accompanies any charge of Stalking in the Fourth Degree under PL § 120.45, or is approved by an ECAB supervisor.”