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Drugs and Prostitution Turn Roosevelt Avenue into 'Old Times Square': Pols

 The intersection of Roosevelt Avenue and 64th Street in Woodside.
The intersection of Roosevelt Avenue and 64th Street in Woodside.
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DNAinfo/Jeanmarie Evelly

QUEENS — An ongoing effort to tackle crime and quality-of-life issues along Roosevelt Avenue in Corona and Jackson Heights should expand west to target problem bars and clubs in Woodside, lawmakers said Monday — likening the street at night to "old Times Square."

Elected officials called on city and state agencies to pour more resources into monitoring "bad actor" businesses along the corridor: bars that operate without proper licenses and attract drug use, prostitution and other problems, they said.

"Roosevelt Avenue is a vibrant avenue during the day," said state Sen. Jose Peralta, who's been pushing for several years to clean up the street, including a request to have NYPD lines redrawn so the avenue was united under one precinct.

"What happens at night is that it turns into something completely different," he said. "It's turned into the old Times Square, where you have prostitution, where you have $2 dance bars, where you have drugs, where you have fake IDs, and that needs to end."

While the stretch of Roosevelt Avenue located within Peralta's district has garnered much of the negative attention in recent years — including in Jackson Heights, identified as a problem spot for sex trafficking — its issues extend into Woodside too, officials said. 

"Unfortunately, it's no different on this part of Roosevelt Avenue, a little bit further west," state Sen. Michael Gianaris said at a press conference on 65th Street Tuesday.

Gianaris could not identify the worst offenders along the stretch, but described issues as widespread, while Peralta said he hears "constantly" from constituents complaining of problems on the thoroughfare at night.

"Women, men, children — they all don’t feel safe after a certain hour," Peralta said.

Deputy Inspector John Travaglia, who heads the 108th Precinct, is aware of community concerns about Roosevelt Avenue and is working with elected officials and the State Liquor Authority to address them, an NYPD spokesperson said.

During the 28-day period ending Oct. 31, police made 44 arrests along the approximately 20-block portion of the corridor that runs through Woodside, between 49th and 69th streets, according to the NYPD.

Officers also doled out 21 criminal court summonses, 41 moving traffic violations and 23 parking summonses during that period, police said.

The lawmakers say their focus is on getting the SLA and the city's Department of Consumer Affairs to better enforce licensing rules, saying many bars on the avenue operate as dance clubs without the cabaret license that allows them to do so.

Peralta introduced legislation this summer that would increase fines for clubs that violate cabaret rules, and would temporarily suspend the licenses of bars found to be operating illegally.

"This is not about denigrating Roosevelt Avenue," the senator said. "It's about eliminating the bad actors who try to hide in between the good actors."

The SLA did not immediately respond to an inquiry Tuesday, and the DCA declined to comment.

The lawmakers say they would also like to form a multi-agency commission made up of representatives from the NYPD, FDNY, SLA and DCA, among others, that would come up with a "plan of action" on how to tackle nightlife issues on the corridor.

They also called for more funding for the DCA, SLA and police in order to allow each agency to better monitor the area.

"We do not have enough attention, in terms of resources, dedicated to these locations," Gianaris said.