By Carlene Richards
Owners of Noble Drew Ali Plaza are planning to build a community garden in the courtyard and add yet more security gates, but some tenants and a local politician say that’s not the answer to curbing crime.
Ex-Mets player Mo Vaughn’s company, Omni New York, bought the five-building, 385-unit low-income complex at 37 New Lots Avenue five years ago with the hopes of turning around its reputation as being crime-plagued.
Since then, the company put in security cameras and locked gates at the entrances. The new plans include ringing the inside of the complex with another set of gates and cameras while tearing out benches and a basketball court and adding a community garden.
“By spring or summer, there will be a garden there,” Omni managing director Eugene Schneur told reporters, adding kids participating in after school and summer programs will have access as well as tenants.
But City Councilman Charles Barron said he is currently organizing tenants against the development of the garden.
“We don’t want this garden and we are going to tell the owners that this isn’t right,” said Barron.
Tenants of the Drew Ali Plaza have voiced complaints to reporters saying the upcoming plan to add a community garden will also add a third set of gates making them feel even more like they live in a caged complex.
“You simply cannot build a development based on a few bad apples, the whole shouldn’t suffer,” said Barron. “The gates are unnecessary. It’s just another way to cut down where people can gather, build a recreational area instead.”
Since Omni New York started implementing the security changes, police have arrested over 35 people in one setting for alleged drug distribution.
But Barron said a majority of the arrestees are innocent and victims of the police needing someone to blame. Instead, the funding for the garden should be utilized in the creation of economic development and jobs, he said.
“If the company focused more on putting new computers in schools and more creative activities that would attract young people to stay in school and stay away from crime,” said Barron.