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LES Dwellers Call For Police Precinct Council President Don West’s Resignation

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The Lower East Side Dwellers neighborhood group put out a press release yesterday calling for the dissolution of the 7th Precinct Community Council and for the resignation of Don West, the council’s longtime president.

The community activists cited an absence over the years of “substantive and representative community input, violation of (the) New York State Open Meetings Law, and transparency.” At the community council’s monthly meeting this week, members of the LES Dwellers intended to voice their concerns about rowdy bars in the “Hell Square” area above Delancey Street. But due to a presentation from the NYPD on firearms tactics, West said he was canceling most items on the agenda, including a “Quality of Life” discussion. That decision did not go over well with the Dwellers.

In their press release, the group said West “unilaterally and abruptly canceled the public session,” adding that “his undemocratic action silenced the nearly 30 voices of residents and local business owners who came to address community concerns and safety.” Expressing outrage, the Dwellers called the “purposeful obstruction of direct communication between the police and community” a “direct violation of the mission of this citywide forum.”  In his 26 years heading the council, they said, West has “willfully disenfrachised and limited large sections of this diverse community from participating in the public process.”

“While bar and nightlife operators spent years making their presence known by attending the monthly council meetings en masse,” they said, “and serving on the council as officers, i.e. Vice President, Secretary, Sergeant at Arms, Treasurer, etc., residents and lawabiding businesses were discouraged from participation in the process, creating a vacuum of balanced and inclusive community input on quality of life, crime and public safety with the (Commanding Officer) of the local precinct and the Community Affairs office.”

The Dwellers emphasized that their criticism was aimed only at the civilian community council and not the leadership of the precinct itself, which they praised. But concerning the council and West’s leadership, the group called for “an investigation into this matter since Wednesday’s meeting represented an ongoing pattern of abuse of the parliamentary process and appears to be in violation of the charter and bylaws.”

Don West (second from right) at last year's national Night Out with Captain Simonetti, Assemblyman Sheldon Silver, Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh.
Don West (second from right) at last year’s National Night Out with Captain Simonetti, Assemblyman Sheldon Silver, Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh.

In an interview yesterday afternoon, West said the allegations from the neighborhood group are simply inaccurate. Members of the council’s executive committee — including Vice President Fran Shulman, Recording Secretary Juanita Lewis, Assistant Secretary Mendy Arez and Sergeant of Arms Michael Mowery — have no ties to local bars, he said. There are seven members of the council’s board of directors. Carlo Schiano, the corresponding secretary, is manager at Piano’s bar and music club on Ludlow Street. Treasurer John Cutillo owns Local 138 and Iggy’s Keltic Lounge.

West asserted that he welcomes participation from all members of the community. He said representatives of the Dwellers group are not regular attendees of the monthly meetings and have not spoken up about their concerns in the past. West added that the Dwellers have been communicating with the precinct’s commanding officer, Joseph Simonetti, and other officers about enforcement issues. “It’s not a council issue,” he said. “This is a group that’s pretty organized,” he acknowledged, “but it seems like their agenda is to shut down all of the bars. They don’t seem to want a happy medium and just want to go on the attack.”

West said this week’s meeting was a special situation, noting that the firearms demonstration took several months to set up. Many items were removed from the agenda, including the “Cop of the Month” presentations that are a regular feature of council meetings. West stated that the Dwellers would have a chance to talk about quality of life issues at the next meeting on June 10.

Community councils exist in each of the city’s police precincts. The volunteer executive boards are elected each year by community members who have attended at least four meetings during a 12-month period. You can see the NYPD’s community council guidelines here. Elections are normally held in June.


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  1. This comment is posted on behalf of Clayton Patterson:

    there are a couple of other parts I would like to respond to – like know the meat market–

    “his undemocratic action silenced the nearly 30 voices of residents and local business owners who came to address community concerns and safety.” Haha I thought. My first reaction- funny story and nothing has changed. Nothing except a new group from the area, because of bars, known as Hell Square, is making an attempt to deal with community problems at the precinct council meeting. Yes the same old story of Don West and his love of the bars in Hell Square.

    Maybe someone can help me with this simple question- it has always stumped me: why would the head of the 7th precinct “community” council want so many bars in an area he does not live in, and as the president of the precinct council, is suppose to be concerned with the cops safety and cops connection to the residents of the community they serve? Weird if you ask me.

    It is an easy argument to make Don’s push for bars in Hell Square. He is probably the strongest advocate the bars have. But anyway, it makes no sense why the president of the 7th precinct council would push so hard for so many trouble spots. There is no way this over saturation of bars and all the problems that the bars causes helps the relationship better the precinct and the community. No question, because of the bars, the area is known as Hell Square. And for the cops, because of how young the 100’s of drunks are, the midnight shift has to be a nightmare. What cop would want to spend their shift dealing with spring break drunks and the kinds of criminal predators these drunks attract to the area?

    I laugh because after hearing from the response the LES Dwellers got from the 7th precinct community council it was a duplicate response we, Marcia Lemmon, Elsa Rensaa, and I had in the 90’s. Marcia Lemmon, Elsa Rensaa and I got banned from attending the meetings because of: 1) asking questions related to all the new crime associated with the bars, 2) Marcia, a VP on the board, wanting to see the books of the non for profit she was serving on, 3) the fact we started to document the meetings.

    Because of these questions we were banned from attending the meetings, Not sure how one can be banned from a democratic organization, but the LES Dwellers are learning democracy in not a part of the equation.

    Anyway, long story short- on my block alone- we ended up with an illegal strip club- an illegal bottle club- shootings- stabbings- mayhem- group fights on the streets- the sale of drugs and so on. In fact one night, just to prove the absurdity of the never ending tales of violence and crime related to the “Club” (btw- across the street from an elementary school and next to another bar/club), Lincoln Anderson from the Villager came to observe the constant out of control stupidity. And sure enough, not long after his arrival, out of the “Club” came a drunk and crazy acting, large, muscular man, walking up to people and punching them in the face, causing some punch confused victims to wonder onto Houston street. Lincoln wrote about it.

    We were not anti-bar. We were supporters of community watering holes like Max Fish, but what Dan and his position as president of the precinct council and his associates gave us is stupidity and an out of control situation which violates every quality of life a community is expected to have, and a non-stop breeding ground of crime and barely legal drunks.

    So can anyone answer my question? Why would the 7th precinct community council and Don West be so in favor of bars, and more bars, and more bars? Asking anyone connected to the 7th precinct council or supporter of the council: the commanding office of the precinct- the community affairs officer- attending assemblyman Silver office, anyone on CB 3- anyone on the precinct council? Anyone. We live in Hell Square- a no BS name.

    I am not asking a hard question like: to look the books- democratic rules- what is the mandate of a community council – nope- just a simple and silly question – but one that sure stumps me. btw- great photo- of the a portion of the political crew who rule and control Hell Square.

  2. The 7th Precinct Community Council has long been a corrupt machine that had political cover, police protection and credibility with the LES BID.

    The opportunistic bar owners got protection by donating money, space and food/drinks to the council for “charity” events. Don West protected by a blue wall ran his council anyway he wanted without oversight. He has championed the worst bars, set his own personal agenda, removed Susan Stetzer from CB3 from being involved with the Precinct, and silencing residents from speaking out and participating.

    Ask yourself why certain bars over the years never get policed?

    Like Shelly, Don West represents the corruption of the past, a relic reminding us of what has long been wrong with the LES. He has to go.

    I agree Mr. West the Dwellers are very organized but what you should fear is how effective and capable they are… also time to come up with a new argument from the than the one disgraced CB3 president McWater came up—their agenda is to shut down all the bars. Tired and untrue. They have proven to be far more effective activist and community organizers than your simplified argument.

    Oh and please Mr. West release the officers of the council from 1997- current. Didn’t Carlis from Piano’s once serve as VP? Meagan Joye of Lucky Jack’s the secretary/ treasury…Shall I continue…

  3. I attended this Community Council meeting, because I was under the impression that a portion of the meeting would allow time for the residents and business owners to talk about some concerns. I noticed on the paper agenda that was distributed prior to the start of the meeting, that there was a section (I believe 6.) for “Community Concerns” among a list of other sections. The whole meeting was largely taken up with one section on the agenda: a presentation about police tactics and gun use. While the presentation was interesting and lively, it seemed imbalanced that it should have taken up the entire meeting (almost 2 hrs), as there were other subject areas on the agenda that were never touched upon. My impression was that those of us who came the meeting, were in attendance for a variety of reasons.

  4. I personally attended this meeting out of curiosity and saw with my own eyes how this guy made the Deellers think they were going to be able to speak in the meeting after the firearms demonstration. It was so rude and obnoxious how he decided to end the meeting knowing there were about 25+ people attending to speak up about their problems as residents and business and look for possible solutions.

    He knew from the very beginning about these persons presence so why wouldn’t he let them know from the very beginning there was not going to be time for them? Instead he let them seat thru the whole meeting and after the presentation was over abruptly called it a night! That guy clearly didn’t want to get into this without being prepared and I tell the Dwellers not to deal with humans his crooks. Speak directly to the head of the precinct. This guy doesn’t even live in re neighborhood and doesn’t care. He has been holding the same position for waaaayyy too many years and has ignores other community organizations and individuals in the past. MANY times!

    It is time for him to go and the real neighbors take control of their issues.

    Good luck with this shady character!

  5. I, too, was at the meeting last week, where the police gave such a lengthy demo about crime. It was very obvious that many of us were there for other reasons; waiting to speak, waiting to hear about real issues. When they adjourned the meeting, it was a slap in the face to the community. It’s time for West to go, in the same way that it’s time for Silver to go. They do not meet or even know our needs. They’re Pols, trying to keep their jobs. Margaret Chin is another. This is a vibrant, family-oriented neighborhood, despite the scourge of too many bars. We need people in charge who care about keeping it working, with shops and services and restaurants who want to serve the community.

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