Asbestos, missing ceiling panels, sewage seeping from a bathroom pipe, and stained carpets are conditions inside the Nassau police department’s Sixth Precinct station house in Manhasset, according to interviews with a handful of police officers and other officials.
Closed as a full precinct facility when the Sixth merged with the Third Precinct in Woodbury under a countywide precinct consolidation plan that was later largely disbanded, the 44-year-old building still operates as a policing center staffed with a limited number of police and civilian personnel.
Now, some elected officials and union representatives are voicing concern over the facility’s condition, and amid a crime spike, renewing calls on County Executive Edward Mangano and acting Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter to reopen the building as a fully functional precinct. They’re planning to rally on the steps of the Nassau legislative building in Mineola on Monday.
“It’s been neglected,” said James Carver, president of the county Police Benevolent Association. “I think they need to rethink the merger and undo the merger and make a plan to get the building in good working order. Right now, you’re talking about a place that’s in disrepair.”
Krumpter, in a recent interview, dismissed efforts to reopen the precinct, saying that it would cost the county $5 million annually, and that the closure has not had any impact on crime increases. He rejected the notion that recent crime spikes — including an increase in residential burglaries, street robberies and felony assaults through about the first four months of this year — necessitated the reopening of the building as a full-functioning precinct.
“Nothing would change for the Nassau County residents if that precinct opens, other than Nassau County residents would have to fund an additional $5 million for the opening of that precinct,” Krumpter said.
While crime in the county has in recent years dropped to historic lows, the latest department statistics show it’s up 3 percent this year through April 30 over the same time period in 2015.
Robberies are leading the way, with street robberies up year-over-year from 88 to 101, 14.77 percent, and commercial robberies up 16.92 percent, from 65 to 76. Residential burglaries increased 28.19 percent, from 227 to 291, the statistics show.
“They’re taking a snapshot . . . with 1.3 million people in this county, a single individual can spike a crime category, all by himself,” Krumpter said, referring to a Brooklyn man recently charged with burglarizing 17 homes across the county. “I would say there is no place in the region that is safer than Nassau County.”
The department in mid-January created the Burglary Pattern Team to put a dent in the number of break-ins.
In the Third Precinct, which now includes the old Sixth Precinct, crime is up 11.45 percent over last year, according to department statistics. As of April 30, commercial burglaries in the Third were up 13.89 percent, 36 to 41, over the same time period in 2015, while residential burglaries are down 4.82 percent from 83 to 79. This year over last year, grand larcenies are up 9.3 percent, 387 to 423, and felony assaults spiked 15.15 percent from 33 to 38, statistics show.
On Friday, the department provided new statistics for only the area covering the old Sixth Precinct, which they said represents a 4 percent overall crime decrease this year through May 20 over the same time period last year.
According to those numbers, residential burglaries are down 10 percent, but grand larcenies are up 13 percent.
Legis. Ellen Birnbaum (D-Great Neck), in a letter dated April 15 to Mangano, which she says went unanswered, lobbied for the precinct to fully reopen and said it’s turning into a “blight” on the community, with dangerous conditions inside including: “loose and broken asbestos tiles, dirty carpets, mold on the ceiling, mice, and poor ventilation.”
“Adding insult to injury, not only has the community had to endure the loss of its precinct, but it now must stand by and watch as the precinct house itself deteriorates and falls into disrepair,” Birnbaum wrote. “The physical building is in a state of neglect.”
Public Works department spokesman Mary Studdert acknowledged in a statement that the building has asbestos, as do many older county-owned buildings. “Employees are not exposed to hazardous conditions, no complaints have been lodged and asbestos abatement is currently underway in the building,” Studdert said.
Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin said, “Since the merger, crime is down, taxpayers are saving money, the building has always remained open with police inside, and Legislator Birnbaum knows darn well that her partisan refusal to support the capital plan hinders the county’s ability to make building improvements at the precinct and throughout her district.”
One police officer, who’s worked in the building housing the old Sixth Precinct for more than 15 years, described it as “disheveled and damaged” and said co-workers have complained about the air quality and told supervisors it made them sick.
“It is a dismal working environment,” said the officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized by the department to speak to the media.
Jerry Laricchiuta, the president of the Civil Service Employees Association, said about five of his civilian employees work in the building and said union inspectors are not in the process of testing air quality in the building.
“That building is in disrepair,” Laricchiuta said. “I’m not happy about it, which is why we ordered people to take a look at it and investigate.”
Carver said there are steps missing on a walkway outside, and officers have complained to him about the air quality inside the building. He said the last time the building got any maintenance was right before he and other officials rallied outside the precinct in March, in a push to get it reopened. He said a tattered American flag was replaced and the building was power-washed.
Det. Lt. Richard LeBrun, the department’s chief spokesman, declined Newsday’s request last week to visit the precinct.
The state of Nassau’s police precincts has roiled debate in the county since before the legislature in 2012 approved a major consolidation plan that would merge the eight precincts into four, in hopes of saving $20 million annually.
Much of that plan was dropped after officials were met with fierce community opposition. In 2014, Mangano and the legislature came to a bipartisan budget deal, which included reversing the merger of the Fourth Precinct in Hewlett and the Fifth in Elmont.
The department also in 2014 canceled its plans to merge the First Precinct in Baldwin and the Seventh Precinct in Seaford, citing concerns about having adequate infrastructure and resources on the flood-prone South Shore.
In addition to the Third and the Sixth, the Levittown-based Eighth Precinct merged with the Second Precinct in Woodbury and remains merged.
Some of the precincts are undergoing multimillion-dollar renovation projects: The Fourth, costing about $12 million for a new building, and the Eighth, with construction costs about $20 million, are set to open new buildings next year. A rebuilt First Precinct, at a cost of about $13 million, is set to open in about a week.
Citing a spike in residential burglaries, county and Town of North Hempstead officials first publicly called for the reopening of the Sixth Precinct in March.
Krumpter said reopening the Sixth would cost $5 million in annual salaries for about 25 administrative jobs at the precinct, including the commanding officer and desk officers. The department also could risk losing another $1.6 million in state “efficiency” grant funding for capital upgrades to the building, Krumpter said. Additionally, the department would have to relocate Highway Patrol, which has since moved to the building, he said.
In 2014, when the department decided to reopen the Fifth Precinct in Elmont after public pressure mounted and also reversed merger plans for the First Precinct in Baldwin with the Seventh Precinct in Elmont, Krumpter said the precinct changes had no monetary impact on the department.
Asked about that discrepancy, Krumpter said the 2,357-member department is “now at a point where I can’t find 25 people.”
“There’s only so many times I can do that,” Krumpter said. “I would run out of people. I would have to eliminate plainclothes or some other operational bodies. . . . I have more than enough personnel to run the police department, but if I open the precinct, I would need 25 additional bodies, those bodies would have to come from somewhere. I am no longer in a position to move administrative bodies around. There are only so many jelly beans in the jar.”