September 25, by Nathaly Pesantez
Residents and business owners are up in arms over a particular Link NYC kiosk on Manhattan Avenue that they say is a hot spot for loud phone calls, garbage, loitering and ongoing criminal activity.
The litany of problems brought on by the LinkNYC kiosk were raised during a Sept. 18 Community Board 1 meeting by Heather Letzkus and Sandford Everett Coker, who live across from the troubled kiosk. They presented a letter to CB1 outlining their issues on behalf of residents from their Manhattan Ave. building, and letters from two business owners located by the kiosk.
Letzkus said at the CB1 meeting that the kiosk between Huron Street and India Street is a source of loud, “clearly audible” phone calls made day and night, and all made possible through the device’s free calling feature.
“Raised voices, if not outright shouting, is a common occurrence,” Letzkus wrote in a Sept. 18 letter addressed to the board. “It cannot be over-emphasized these calls are made at all hours: 11:00 pm, 4:30 am, 6:00, and so forth.”
The kiosk has also allegedly led to groups of people huddling for extended periods of time around what one store owner directly in front of the kiosk describes as a narrow block.
“Many who use the kiosk have their belongings and bags with them on the sidewalk,” wrote Brian Gempp, the co-owner of Record Grouch on 986 Manhattan Ave, in a letter to the board. “Some even have pillows and toiletries.”
Gempp added that people lean against his store’s front gate and sit on his step while waiting to use the device.
Adam Saucy, the owner of the neighboring Odd Fox Coffee on 984 Manhattan Ave., says garbage is a commonplace issue now in front of his store because of the kiosk.
“I am left to clean up the trash, food scraps and bottles left behind,” Saucy wrote.
Along with the noise, loitering, and littering, Saucy and Letzkus both allege that they have heard people using the LinkNYC kiosk to discuss “explicit” drug deals. In one incident, a woman was heard talking about drugs and the presence of undercover police nearby, prior to bolting off and running into Letzkus’ residential building. The woman, Arlene Mocko, was later arrested for trespassing and was found with a crackpipe filled with cocaine, according to DNAInfo.
“It is a hub of criminal activity,” Letzkus said.
The 94th precinct said it had been made aware of the complaints for this particular kiosk, but added that it has heard complaints about kiosks in Greenpoint at large ranging from criminal activity, noise and the kiosks taking up too much space on the sidewalks.
LinkNYC has run into issues in the past with its kiosks which led to the company disabling its web browser feature from the devices in 2016. A spokesperson for LinkNYC said complaints about loitering dropped 96% immediately after the action was taken.
“Anyone who sees illegal activity on the street should call 911,” the spokesperson said in response to complaints about the Manhattan Ave. kiosk.
Letzkus added that she has lodged complaints about to kiosk with Councilmember Stephen Levin’s office. Questions about the complaints were not immediately answered by his office.
Concerns about loitering and criminal activity were previously raised by the community about the kiosks, Letzkus said, when LinkNYC presented at a Brooklyn CB1 meeting in April.
“People on the board said these things are probably going to happen if you do this, and they didn’t heed it,” Letzkus said.
Community Board 1’s public safety committee is in the process of organizing a meeting to discuss the kiosk. Details on the meeting date and time will be publicly available on the Brooklyn CB1 calendar, posted online.