Park Slope police are powerless to stop patrons of two notoriously rowdy Flatbush Avenue bars from “screaming” in the streets once they leave the venues, the 78th Precinct’s top cop claimed on Tuesday night.
The precinct last month began stationing patrolmen outside Woodland and Bleachers Sports Bar and Grill From Fridays through Mondays, and have since written more than 100 summonses for parking and other violations, but officers can’t force bar-goers to keep quiet once they leave the venues, he said.
“If somebody is too drunk and they’re falling over themselves, my officers can do something about that, but if they’re screaming at night, there’s nothing I can do about that except ask them to be quiet,” Capt. Frank DiGiacomo told disgruntled residents at the precinct’s Community Council meeting on Sept. 27.
Locals have complained to the community board for years about loud music and patrons at the watering holes between Sixth Avenue and Bergen Street, going so far as to form a community group dubbed Neighbors Against Nuisance from Woodland and Bleachers.
But residents escalated their grievances to the 78th Precinct in August after muggers robbed an off-duty police officer and his cousin as they were leaving Bleachers — and one or the other fired back.
The cops DiGiacomo has since stationed outside the bars have written 118 parking summonses and nine criminal court summonses — usually for drunk and disorderly conduct — for patrons and hit Bleachers with one noise violation. But aside from that single infraction, the businesses themselves have been well behaved, the captain reported to residents — Woodland went so far as to install a lock on its sound-system volume so disc jockeys are incapable of blasting music above legally permitted levels.
But the neighbors replied that the bars’ patrons remain an obnoxious blight on their hours of rest.
“On Prospect Place for the last couple of nights, there are people screaming and shrieking at 2 o’clock in the morning waking us up,” said Muriel Frischer.
At one point, the commanding officer had a brief shouting match with a local business leader after she suggested the officer’s fixed post on Flatbush Avenue should become a mobile patrol.
“I don’t think it’s helping the folks who leave the premises, who are walking through the neighborhood,” said Regina Cahill, president of the North Flatbush Business Improvement District.
“What am I writing summonses for?” DiGiacomo yelled over her. “If a guy comes out of a bar, drunk, yelling, walking to the train station, and going home, they’re not breaking the law.”
That’s not entirely true, according to criminal defense lawyer Paul Wiegartner — the statute related to drunk and disorderly conduct is “not terribly well defined” so slapping sozzled bar patrons with summonses or handcuffs is largely at an officer’s discretion, he said.
Still, the city’s district attorneys are unlikely to prosecute someone who just had a few drinks and shouted, and, if they did, they probably wouldn’t win, Wiegartner said.
“I would tend to agree with the precinct captain,” he said. “A lot of people in my position would happily take a case of someone who walked out of a bar after having a few drinks.”
DiGiacomo assured locals that he would maintain a police presence outside the bar until their concerns are addressed, and said the precinct would communicate with the State Liquor Authority and other state and city agencies to come up with other solutions.
The community board recommended the city deny Woodland’s request to renew its liquor license earlier this year, although the state gave it one anyway.