In the Hasidic Jewish area of Williamsburg, you may see a miniature police station that might look straight out of a movie set. Located on a small traffic island on Lee Avenue just off the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, it could be the more utilitarian version of the Tardis police box from Doctor Who. And in a way, you would be going back in time if you were to go inside. This station was part an official NYPD neighborhood watch post in the 1980s for the local area, according to a retired NYPD detective we spoke to who was previously assigned to this very station, but the station is no longer used by the NYPD.
The retired detective also told us the station itself was built by the local community to have a police presence, particularly during Shabbat from Friday evening to Saturday when electricity and phones can not be used, as per the religious tenets in the Orthodox Jewish community. The community could just walk over to the police station, if help or emergency was needed, the detective says. When he was a rookie assigned to this station, he says it was originally “built for an old-timer – Police Officer Danielski, this was his post.” In addition to the watch post, there were also House of Worship (HOW) patrol cars that would monitor activity in front of synagogues.
We haven’t seen any other mini stations like this elsewhere in New York City. Despite some aging, a little graffiti and some weeds, the station is fairly intact on the exterior. The POLICE sign in a blue Helvetica-style font is on three sides of the building. There’s a door with a numeric keypad on the side facing Keap Street with an air conditioning unit on top. Blinds are drawn on all sides but on the side facing Williamburg Street East and the BQE, two top windows were tilted open. It is possible it is still used by the Hasidic community, as we saw lights on inside during a Friday night.
The Hasidic Jewish community has many of their own separate institutions, including its own bus line, the B110 that runs from Williamsburg to Boro Park which has been subject to investigation regarding discrimination and segregation in the past — as it operates as a franchise from the city. They also have their own “emergency medical corps, a security patrol, and a rabbinic court system, which often handles criminal allegations,” according to The New Yorker. The increasing evolution of separate institutions is possibly one of the reasons why this police box is defunct. For now, it remains a curious artifact from another time, mostly forgotten.