Change comes to the 40th precinct

Update: Advocates react to change in command

Just three weeks ago, Deputy Police Inspector Elias  Nikas, commander of the 40th Precinct in Mott Haven, showed up at the precinct’s monthly Community Council meeting with his shoes polished and a big smile on his face.

“I’ll meet with anybody anytime, let’s have a great year!” Nikas said.”

So community leaders reacted with surprise at the news this week that he is stepping down from his command to take another post in the NYPD. And they said he will be missed.

“He had his officers everywhere, he understood the concerns, he knew the importance of leadership,” said Alex Diaz, the Community Council  president. “He was walking on the beat, he was really out there. You could see him and he was at every public meeting, where he answered all questions he can.”

Nikas, who has declined comment on his departure, leaves as the precinct is embroiled in a wide-ranging investigation into ticket-fixing by officers and union representatives in the Bronx. The NYPD has said he is leaving for personal reasons, and will be assigned to the department’s domestic violence bureau.

Community leaders said they saw no link with the ticket-fixing scandal.

“It actually happened many years ago, a long time before he came here,” said Gloria Cruz, the precinct council’s secretary, who worked closely with Nikas.

She said he was always available to discuss problems with community leaders, his own staff and citizens alike.

“He made them accountable for what they do and always tried to find a solution,” she said. “I am proud to have been one of his partners.”

The long-time chairman of Community Board 1, George Rodriguez, echoed Cruz’s sentiments, saying of Nikas, “In all my years going back to my time in Community Board 2 with Fort Apache, he was one of the best.”

“There are ups and downs in our neighborhood,” said Diaz. “We had spikes in gang activity, but we are not the only ones.

“I don’t have any details but I can’t think of him involved in this scandal,” said City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito, whose district includes part of Mott Haven.

John DeSio, spokesman for Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., said Diaz did not want to comment on the ticket-fixing scandal. City Councilwoman Carmen del Arroyo did not respond to a request for comment.

Mark-Viverito said that although she has only been directly in touch with him a couple of times, she remembers that he knew the neighborhood very well and knew how to avoid violence.

“I found him very attentive,” she said.

Nikas, who is going to work in the NYPD’s domestic violence unit, has been replaced by Deputy Inspector Christopher Mc Cormack, who had been commanding officer of the 20th Precinct in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood.

“It’s always hard when there is a transition,” said Mark-Viverito. “It’s what happens everywhere, but here we have a lot of challenges, so the change might be a little disruptive.”

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