By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Residents who live far from downtown Brooklyn and who don’t want to take a long ride on a train or a bus to seek help from Brooklyn District Attorney Charles in his office at 350 Jay St. can get assistance right in their own neighborhoods, thanks to dozens of community service centers the DA has set up all over the borough over the last 10 years.
The DA’s satellite offices are manned by trained staff members who deal with walk-ins complaining about everything from suspected drug deals on their block to suspicions that they are being financially ripped off by relatives. The staff members document the information and hand it over the DA’s investigators.
“We get a lot of seniors who are victims of financial fraud, or who are being exploited,” Executive Assistant District Attorney Virginia C. Modest told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. The offices handle a wide variety of cases, Modest said. “People come and talk to us about gang activity, drug activity, identity theft, scams. We get landlord-tenant disputes, immigrants who are being exploited because of their status, and neighbors complaining about excessive noise,” she said.
The goal is to give Brooklyn residents a chance to discuss troubling issues in comfort and privacy within their own communities, Modest said.
Over the past decade, Hynes has opened 33 of these neighborhood walk-in centers as a way of bringing the justice system closer to the public. On July 8, the newest space opened in Dyker Heights, in the offices of the Neighborhood Improvement Association’s Community Services Network at 6614 11th Ave. NIA, a non-profit organization that provides educational, recreational and social service programs, invited Hynes to set up an office in their building, Modest said.
The DA’s Dyker Heights office will be open one day a week, Monday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The phones haven’t been hooked up yet, but anyone seeking information can call the district attorney’s information hotline at 718-250-2555. The 11th Avenue location will be staffed by Site Manager Fay Lee and a counselor, Marc Ogoff.
On Monday, Modest, Lee, and Ogoff were joined by NIA leaders and community as they officially opened the new walk-in center. Hynes was attending a funeral and was unable to attend the opening. Modest represented the DA at the press conference.
NIA leaders said they were pleased to offer the space to the district attorney’s staff. “We couldn’t be happier to be adding this service,” MaryAnn Cino, CEO of NIA said. Cino, who called the walk-in center concept “an innovative program,” said the DA’s program and the NIA’s mission are similar. “This is a wonderful compliment to the services we already provide. We look forward to a fruitful collaboration,” she said.
City Councilman Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst) praised the neighborhood walk-in center concept. Gentile, a former assistant district attorney in Queens, said he spent a lot of time during his 11 years in the DA’s office going from location to location all over that borough to meet with crime victims. Hynes’s program “makes it easier for people to have direct contact with the DA’s office,” he said.
Fran Vella-Marrone, president of the Dyker Heights Civic Association, said the walk-in center is a great idea. “The DA has been ahead of the curve in a number of ways. To bring it here to Dyker Heights is great,” she said.