Last week 15 Parks Enforcement Patrol (PEP) officers from the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens wrote to their union to complain about dangerous work conditions caused by the lack of manpower and resources in city parks. The complaints are due in part to a new order dealing with the homeless and the conditions they encounter.
Under the subject line, Fall Tour Changes & Personnel Shortage, the September 21, 2010, letter obtained by A Walk In The Park says, "The following Parks Enforcement Patrol commands were ordered by Arsenal North Management to man two tours [8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.] during the fall/winter time of the year. We are being asked to patrol during the evening hours with a maximum of two officers and & one supervisor. Our main objective on the evening tour would be to focus on the homeless conditions. Some of the homeless conditions that we have encountered during our patrols are seriously mentally ill, combative and emotionally disturbed. This created problems because there are no other patrol units in the borough available to assist.
While on patrol there is no telling when an officer may encounter a violent crime taking place. In the past there has been an increase in rapes, homicides, robberies and muggings. Our belief is that two officers is not enough to handle these types of situations and or conditions with any back up. Sometimes the locations are in remote areas that do not enter into the NYPD, or EMS system for them to respond to us. We are asking that all officers remain on one tour for safety purposes until our staff increases."
Hypodermic needles and empty crack vials at the base of a tree in High Bridge Park.
On Sunday the Daily News observed PEP officers dealing with homeless conditions in Fordham Landing Playground, a four-acre park property off of the Major Deegan Expressway near Fordham Road. PEP and the Daily News spoke to a Little League coach who not only complained about the dangerous conditions in the park but stated that the community has had to deal with the hazards for years. The coach said his league's 300 kids are subjected to seeing the homeless doing drugs, urinating and defecating in the park. "Things you don't want the kids to see," said a parks source.
However, when contacted by the Daily News on Sunday for comment, the Park's Department press office said PEP responded to the scene only after a complaint had been made by the Little League coach and PEP responding was not part of any larger homeless initiative, according to a parks source. The Parks Department press office said that no such homeless order exists.
"When we do participate in (homeless) sweeps, they are performed with the full cooperation of DHS [Department of Homeless Services] and NYPD and after an extended period of outreach," the Parks Department press office told the Daily News.
"They're liars," said a Parks Department source who requested anonymity out of fear of retaliation. "They got caught and now they are trying to cover it up."
"Its inconceivable they would do this to their own employees when they are risking their lives every day," said Joe Puleo, Vice President of Local 983. "I'm shocked that they would give false information to the media."
"It doesn't shock me, but it amazes me," said a PEP officer who also spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.
Last week Local 983 president Mark Rosenthal tried to look into the situation before the order was to be implemented on Sunday. On Thursday he left a message with Parks Assistant Commissioner Michael Dockett, the head of PEP, and asked for a call back "immediately." The call was not returned.
The Park Enforcement ranks have been decimated over the years. The current city budget allocates funds for only 152 officers - down from 212 last year year - and from a high of 450 in the 1990s. This policy means that some boroughs like the Bronx can have as little as one or two officers per shift to patrol nearly 7,000 of acres of parkland. This is in sharp contrast to so called "contract parks" which pay for dedicated PEP to be assigned permanently to work in one park.
The vast majority of PEP are permanently assigned to contract parks which relay on dedicated funding schemes, usually private funds. One exception is the High Line where PEP officers are paid from city funds. The High Line for instance has between nine and eleven officers for less than 3 acres. Further compounding the disparity, PEP officers are often taken out of a borough and moved to a wealthy contract park in order to fulfill the city's contractual obligations.
A PEP officer on the High Line. Public-Private partnerships in wealthy communities have created enormous disparities in the city's park system.
A Walk In The Park - September 28, 2010
A Walk In The Park - March 18, 2010
New York Daily News - September 2, 2009 - By Geoffrey Croft
New York Daily News - June 10, 2009 - By Joy Resmovits, Kenny Porpora And Erin Einhorn
New York Daily News - October 4, 2008 - By Lisa L. CoLangelo
Thursday, September 30, 2010
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Four thugs robbed and beat a man in Fort Greene Park on Sept. 24, getting his phone and cash, according to The Brooklyn Paper.
The victim told cops that he was sitting in the park near DeKalb Avenue at 2:30 pm when the group of brutes approached him swinging and kicking. The perps made off with the money and a Blackberry, and left the victim with a battered and swollen face.
The Brooklyn Paper - September 28, 2010 - By Joe Anuta
A photographer was robbed of his expensive camera and beaten by a thug in Central Park on Monday, police said, according to an account in the New York Post. The 39-year-old victim, who is visiting from Florida, was accosted off East 61st Street near East Drive at 6:50 p.m. The thief snatched his Nikon camera and slugged him in the face before fleeing. The victim was treated at St. Luke's Hospital for minor injuries.
Police say they are looking for an attacker after a mugging in Central Park, according to WABC News.
The incident happened just before 7 p.m. Monday, near the East 61st Street entrance to the park.
Police say the suspect approached a man walking in the park and demanded his cell phone.
When the victim refused, the suspect punched him in the face, grabbed his Blackberry and camera and took off.
A couple was robbed by a masked thug and his knife-wielding accomplice outside Belvedere Castle in Central Park, according to the New York Post.
The 22-year-old male victim and his female companion, 19, were sitting on the steps of the old castle at about 11:30 p.m. Saturday when the two muggers approached, sources said.
Saturday, September 25, 2010
For the most part, residents fear neglect. Just next door sits New Dorp Beach, whose bungalows were knocked down in 1962. Now owned by the city, the beach there is hideous. Condoms and drug refuse litter the shore. The foundation of an ancient hospital has never been removed.
The city has put aside $1.8 million to fix up Cedar Grove -- money, ironically, from the rent paid by Grovians. It's not enough, officials admit, to get through even one summer.
The kids are back at school and their parents at work, leaving only the oldest of the old-timers to reflect on nearly 100 years that suddenly seem like they've gone by so fast.
"Sometimes I find myself standing and staring out the window and I can't imagine not summering here," said Marie Mulcahy, 67, who was sitting on her deck recently with her husband, Roger, 79, and sister-in-law, Eileen Lee, 82. A few feet away a lone fisherman cast a line and a sunbather sat under a yellow umbrella at the water's edge.
"All we have is hope now."
Over the past few weeks, the residents of the 41 beach colony bungalows have been taking photos off the walls and boxing away knickknacks collected through the years. Furniture has been donated to charity or given to friends. Pots and pans, clothing, small appliances and paintings were sold at a yard sale last Saturday.
Despite the support of elected officials and a rally last Monday on the steps of City Hall, they may really be leaving for the very last time when their lease with the city expires on Thursday.
The Parks Department is reclaiming the privately-leased stretch of land at the foot of Ebbits Street in New Dorp as part of its vision of incorporating its 78 acres into 10.6 miles of "continuous, open public beach" from the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to Crescent Beach in Great Kills.