The city council on Tuesday evening passed an ordinance banning the formation of group gatherings, which interference with local commerce, outside business establishments.
“Police have their hands cuffed so to speak,” said Kenneth McDaniel, councilman at-large. McDaniel explained that because the state has done away with loitering laws local authorities hitherto lacked the power to deal with mischievous crowds outside businesses.
“It gives law enforcement authorities the ability to step in and intervene when there’s large crowds of individuals hanging outside in front of bodegas, liquor stores, bars,” explained McDaniel who sponsored the ordinance.
City residents welcomed the move with several expressing positive sentiments about the ordinance. Some residents want the ordinance to be applied not only to businesses but also to residential properties.
“I would like to ask that not only should this be enforced in commercial and retail, I think it should be enforced in general,” requested Rafael Fontana, a city resident. “What happens is that when you move them away from liquor stores and bodegas, they go to the next corner.”
In an attempt to placate residents’ demand and get the initial ordinance in the book without bogging it down in modifications and changes, Andre Sayegh, 6th Ward councilman, commented, “This can always be amended.”
Ernest Rucker, a city activist, also wanted the ordinance to cover homeowners, who often have to deal with groups invading porticos and creating lounging areas. “Our community has been held hostage for quite some time,” said Rucker.
“They sit in front of my house,” added Ruby Cotton, 4th Ward councilwoman. “I have to yell out the window saying ‘what are you doing?’ you do not live here, you don’t even pay rent here, why are you sitting in front of my house.”
On Preakness Avenue, after students are dismissed from John F. Kennedy High School they set up shop in porches across the block adjacent to the school, said Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman, 2nd Ward councilman. “They start occupying all the houses on Preakness Avenue,” said Akhtaruzzaman.
Although residents and council members hopes to address the situation with the newly crafted ordinance, the issue cannot be addressed without enforcement from the administration. In recent years, there have been little will to enforce existing ordinances.
Donald Lynch, a city resident, skeptically mentioned the Danforth Memorial Library on Broadway where drug addicts and drunkards and undesirables of all stripes hangout throughout the day.
“Look at the library, they sit there like it’s their home,” said Lynch. “If they’re not going to stretch this ordinance, it’s no good.”
The ordinance sets fines for violators as much as $2,000, imprisonment for 90-days, or community service for 90-days.
“People are sick and tired of being held hostage in their homes not being able to go to bodegas and stores because people are hanging out loitering,” said McDaniel. “This is the first step towards taking back our city.”