Central Park is not just an oasis — it’s New York City’s sanctuary, the soul of Manhattan.
Which also makes it a battleground, a 1.32 square mile symbol of how we’re doing. Police fight to maintain the perception that the park — and, by extension, the city that surrounds it — is safe.
That image has taken a blow in recent weeks after a handful of headline-making attacks, including the sexual assault of a 23-year-old woman last Sunday just inside the park near Fifth Avenue and 85th Street, and the rape of an 18-year-old in April near the East 79th Street Transverse, which sparked memories of the infamous Central Park jogger case that happened exactly 11 years earlier.
Serious crime in the park is up 52% — with 35 felonies this year through June 6, up from 23 in 2009 — and up 34% since 2008, NYPD stats show.
There were three armed robberies between March 10 and April 3. Another, on Jan. 3, involved the mugging of a love-struck couple from New Jersey, who lost their $32,000 engagement ring to a gun-toting thief beneath the Trefoil Arch near East 73rd Street at 8:20 p.m.
Cops are looking to bust a band of sticky fingered teens who spend their after-school hours on the prowl, snatching unattended bags off park benches between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. Victims are often nannies or mothers with their kids.
And there have been some other troubling signs.
The 28 assaults last year were the most since 2003, as were the 46 incidents of flashing or other lewd acts (after just 10 seven years ago), according to the state’s Division of Criminal Justice Services.