Memory Lane: The 66th Precinct
Boro Parkers of today have known the red brick building housing the 66 police precinct at 5822 16th Avenue as the local police station for decades. But police stations are allocated are allocated according to sections of a city, divided according to the population in those locales.
As this area of Boro Park was developed later than other parts of town, it is likely the reason that the station came here later—after being situated across town for many years before that.
Either way, the area around the 66 has been overpopulated for as long as anyone alive today can remember, and while there have been some strained moments over the years, the relationship between the community and the officers serving in this station has largely been peaceful, productive and beneficial.
Today we take a historical glimpse into the 66th police precinct which has served Boro Park for close to 110 years.
The first actual police station for Boro Park came to the area in the following way:
Louis (Leibish) Borgenicht was a very wealthy man who came to America around the turn of the century, a pauper from Galicia who proceeded to make his journey from rags to riches selling, well… rags. Related his daughter: “Around 1910, there was no police precinct in Boro Park. Community leaders asked my parents if they would donate space on our large grounds to erect a small wooden building to be used for a police precinct. My parents were delighted to have police protection so nearby and agreed readily. This was the first police precinct in Boro Park.”
The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reports in April of 1931: “The Police Department will shortly establish a station house in the Borough Park section to be known as the 66th precinct. Announcement of the plan followed a meeting Wednesday of the Sinking Fund Commission, at which formal approval of a lease of a two and a half story building at 1430 49th Street was given.
“Establishment of the station house ends a long campaign by civic groups for additional police protection. The building selected is a stucco frame structure, and will be leased for one year with the privilege of renewal. The rent is to be $1,500 a year, with the Police Department making its own improvements…. It is understood that these quarters are only temporary… the station is a positive need of the section…in view of the huge growth of the district, there was an imperative demand for more police protection.”
It was immediately known that these quarters would not be able to keep up with the needs of the force, and the population. Captain Lewis J. Valentine said at the time that “the 66th was one of the busiest in the borough.” It would be close to two decades—encompassing the WWII era—to move to the current location.
The article mentioned above notes Lt. John Osnato who was in charge of the detectives. At that time, there was a “Protection Packet Merger” where criminal groups were banding together and extorting money from shopkeepers for protection. Osnato was quoted as saying, “I will break a nightstick over their heads if they ever start making trouble in this precinct.”
One child of that those days recalled: “At 2:00 P.M. when policemen changed shifts, officers from the first shift exited the station house in formation.”
In April 1943, then PC Lewis J. Valentine requested of Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, that the city purchase a site at 59th Street and 16th Avenue at a cost of $5,500 for the construction of a new 66th Precinct Station-house for the 66th. Delayed by the circumstances of World War II, it was not until August 1948 that the Board of Estimate approved the building of the new facility.
In the fall of 1949, we read: “About 500 participated in the ceremony yesterday afternoon marking the formal dedication of the new station house for the new station house for the 66th precinct at 5822 16th Avenue…The new station house is two and one-half stories in height, constructed of red brick in a modern design.”
Much has changed in the ensuing seventy years, but the 66th precinct building has continued to stand at this very corner of Boro Park.