Members of the Floral Park Chamber of Commerce gathered together at Stella’s Ristorante on Sept. 7 for their luncheon meeting. The afternoon’s guest speaker was Floral Park’s new Police Commissioner, Stephen McAllister, who addressed the village’s business community and answered questions on topical community issues, including parking woes and underage drinking and drug use.
Chamber President Sal Bona-gura started things off by thanking the previous commissioner, Michael Reed for his service and welcomed the new commissioner to his post. McAllister, who was appointed by Mayor Kevin Greene this past July, told the chamber that he appreciated the opportunity to meet the people of the community and told of his family history in Floral Park.
“I am a resident as well. I moved with my family in 1998, and what I am struck by is how life comes full circle. As I gaze across at the Astoria Federal Savings Bank on Jericho, my mother worked in that bank in 1957. She worked there for approximately three years until 1960 when she married my father in St. Hedwig’s Church,” he said.
McAllister’s parents both immigrated to this country from Northern Ireland. “My mom was sponsored and lived in New Hyde Park and married my father, and he was sponsored by his sister, who lived in Brooklyn…That’s where they lived and that’s where I was born. Now, almost 50 years later, I back come to you as the police commissioner and I stare at the place my mother once worked; it takes you back,” he said.
A seasoned NYPD veteran with more than 27 years of experience, McAllister detailed his varied background in law enforcement. “I was a sergeant; I was a lieutenant; I was a captain; I was a deputy inspector; I was an inspector,” he told the crowd. McAllister added that he was very happy to have this new position and thanked the members of the village board for going through the interview process.
“I am the change agent. Hopefully, you will see more positive interactions with the Floral Park Police Department. If you had negative feelings about the police department, I hope that we can correct those problems. I am getting to know the police officers themselves and I am struck by their professionalism and their knowledge,” he said. “My job is to make sure that the whole team, all 36 of us, are pointed in the right direction, making sure we are taking care of your needs whatever they may be,” he said.
A West End resident asked the commissioner about the parking rules in Floral Park Village. She said she was under the impression that cars on the street were only allowed to be parking four hours at a time in the village. The resident said, “I found that there are so many cars on the street. I’ve had cars parked outside my home for 16 hours at a crack. Is something going to be done about that? Why have the rule at all?” McAllister responded, “I know we do go out and mark the cars…I will look into it and I’ll see that the proper summons are issued.” Another chamber member added that parking enforcement stays near the railroad tracks.
Another resident inquired as to what the biggest issue or problem confronting the police department is right now. McAllister explained that underage drinking is a real big concern. “There is also the undercurrent of pills and marijuana that we have to guard against because these are children and we have to divert them into the proper behaviors. We don’t want our children to be victimized that way but, obviously, the law is set up a certain way to deal with this…We work with the courts, we work with the DA. We don’t want to institutionalize these kids and they are forever lost. It’s not a good system to be mixed up in; you kind of want to be diverted,” he said.
One chamber member asked if there’s anything business owners should know about the problem. “It starts with your own children. You’ve got to parent your own house and you’ve got to see the signs of use and abuse. Being a vigilant parent. You don’t want the police department to fill that role because for us to fill that role, it’s a negative,” he said.
A business owner asked if heroin is becoming a problem in the local community. McAllister said that while the drug is out on the streets, it has not become a problem in Floral Park. “Certain communities seem to have an attraction to that type of drug. It gets into the community and then it just proliferates throughout. We haven’t seen it here, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist but it hasn’t come into our possession. Most of what we have been confiscating is a lot of pills and a lot of marijuana,” McAllister said. “You can really lose somebody after one or two uses on heroin. It’s a really bad drug…I don’t want to see it here. I live here,” he added.
Another popular phenomenon with teenagers is prescription pills, according to McAllister. “A lot of the pills are coming from parents, unknowingly though,” he said. He also cautioned parents who may have old prescription pills sitting around, that their teenage children could be using them or selling them for profit on the street. “It’s a big concern,” McAllister said.
The Floral Park Police Department will be participating in the anonymous drug surrender program on Saturday, Sept. 25, where anyone can come down to the police station and turn in unused, unneeded expired prescription pills. McAllister asked everyone to clean out their medicine cabinets and bring old prescriptions and place them in a collection bin provided by the DEA. No questions will be asked. Visit www.dea.gov for more information.