Friday, April 29, 2011

NYC Council Hearing Reveals Big Park Enforcement Patrol Disparity

"Those that have means and resources are able to bring more safety to the area. You suffer if you are not in a tony or sexy neighborhood," said Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito, the chairwoman of the Committee on Parks and Recreation.

“Clearly, we have to fight for more resources to ensure our parks are being protected correctly — in all communities,” She said in an interview after the hearing. “There really is a disparity.”

First Deputy Commissioner of Parks and Recreation Liam Kavanaugh, and Assistant Commissioner of Urban Park Services Michael Dockett testify at Wednesday's hearing. Despite a 24% increase in Park Crime in 2010 according NYPD statistics, when asked if crime had risen Mr. Kavanaugh replied, "no." He also testified that PEP have no impact on crime. Photos: © Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates (Click on images to Enlarge)

Despite having the least amount of park space and the third highest population, Manhattan has more than 15 times the number of Parks Enforcement officers as other boroughs. On any given day there may be as few as two full-time PEP officers available to patrol more than 6,700 acres of public parkland in Queens, two officers for 6,970 acres in the Bronx, or five for Brooklyn's 4,336 acres, and as few as five for Staten Island's 7, 400, acres. These numbers drop further when you factor in vacations, sick days and regular days off.

And that's the good news: During the summer the number of PEP officers available for patrol declines even more as the majority of its personnel, including seasonal workers, are deployed to beaches and pools. This further leaves the vast majority of the Parks Department's 29,000 acres further unprotected.

By sharp contrast, an increasing number of public parks - almost exclusively in Manhattan that have a dedicated security presence, some even 24/7. More than 50% of PEP are now permanently assigned to parks run by private nonprofits, or other government agencies that buy their services. A few shell out more than $2 million dollars annually. (Battery Park City and Hudson River Park) In fact contractually these parks and others are required to have a minimum number of PEP officers deployed.
To make matters worse the Parks Department continues to misrepresent the number of officers apparently with the blessing of Mayor Bloomberg. Parks spokesperson Vickie Karp said that Manhattan had 34 PEP officers instead of the actual number of 94. Several news organizations including the New York Times and NY 1 reported the erroneous numbers. These numbers also include supervisors who are not dedicated for patrol. (For a break down see below)

Queens Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras asked how many PEP officers were assigned to the heavily utilized 1200 acre Flushing Meadows Corona Park. At first Mr. Dockett tried to represent there were 12 officers. Upon further questioning the number dwindled down to 2. The actual number however is zero as the park does not have a single dedicated PEP officer assigned to the park year-round. In fact the entire borough of Queens has only 7 officers available for patrol.

Missing Officers

This year's budget (FY11) includes an allocation of $11.3 million in tax levy for 151 PEP officers. However Mr. Kavanaugh testified that the city had only 92 tax payer funded positions. When asked why he did not hire as many PEP officers as was allotted in the budget, the deputy commissioner erroneously stated that there is no specific allotment for PEP officers in the budget.

Queens Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley responded by pointing out that she had attended the department's budget hearings and noted a specific number of PEP slots worked into the budget—a number that has been repeatedly higher than the actual officers on staff over the years.

In an effort clearly meant to protect the Mayor Mr. Kavanaugh provided no accounting or explanation for the missing officers other than to say,

“Unfortunately, we are unable to replace people who leave of their own volition,” replied Kavanaugh. He explained that the marked decrease in the number of officers over the years is a result of attrition and promotion, which, according to budgetary stipulations, the department cannot make up for with new hires."

"Where is this money," Joe Puleo, vice president of Local 983 which represents PEP officers asked after the hearing. "The elected officials allocated these funds why isn't it being spent. Where has it been diverted?"

Parks officials made a number of false and inconsistent statements at the hearing.

In the coming months, the Committee on Parks and Recreation plans to hold another hearing jointly with the Public Safety Committee on crime in parks. The hearing will continue to examine these issues as well as the city's compliance with local Law 114 of 2005 which mandates the tracking and reporting of crime in parks. By 2008 the city was supposed to track crime in all parks and playgrounds one acre in size and larger which they are not doing. — Geoffrey Croft


A City Council hearing convened on Wednesday to examine the distribution of Park Enforcement Patrol (PEP) officers across the five boroughs. Manhattan is the borough with the least amount of parkland, but the highest number of officers on patrol.

Manhattan's parks have the cash—and the safety patrol that comes with it. As crime rises in the city's parks and the number of patrolling officers decreases, Manhattan's privately managed parkland has plenty of officers on hand, according to the Epoch Times.

Outer boroughs are “getting the short end of the stick,” because they rely on public funds, said Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras of Queens. Private entities, such as Battery Park City Authority, Hudson River Park Trust, and Central Park Conservancy, are drawn to the “sexy” parks of Manhattan, as Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito put it.

“Our communities are sexy, too. It's just that we're broke,” joked Ferreras.

Geoffrey Croft, president of New York City Park Advocates, a nonprofit watchdog group, called it a “tale of two cities.” He took the council members on a virtual tour of the city, passing through Battery Park City, where 35 PEP officers patrol 35 acres, and the Bronx, where 8 officers patrol 6,000 acres.

TALE OF TWO CITIES: Geoffrey Croft, president of New York City Park Advocates, called the distribution of Park Enforcement Patrol officers a "tale of two cities," as he went through different parks on the map and illustrated a disparate allotment of officers to each at a City Council hearing on Wednesday. (Tara MacIsaac/The Epoch Times)

According to Croft’s count, obtained on Thursday of last week, 40 publicly funded officers patrol 28,000 acres of parkland in New York City: seven in Queens, eight in the Bronx, seven in Brooklyn, five in Staten Island, and 13 in Manhattan.

Deputy Commissioner of Parks and Recreation Liam Kavanaugh provided a higher number, 92, which more than doubled Croft's count. Croft said Kavanaugh's numbers include officers stationed in recreation centers, as well as officers on vacation, sick leave, or otherwise occupied but not actually walking through the parks.

According to Croft's figures, 71 private officers are on patrol in Manhattan, seven in Brooklyn, and none in the other boroughs. This matched the numbers Kavanaugh gave at one point during the hearing, although he specified different figures at another time—and his office provided still different numbers after the meeting.

At one point, the deputy commissioner was asked to account for 209 sworn PEP officers. His figures totaled 149.

Kavanaugh said the privatestewardship of parks is a great relief to the city, allowing the Department of Parks and Recreation to use its resources elsewhere.

Manhattan has half the parkland of any other borough, 102 NYPD officers at the Central Park Precinct, and a wealth of private PEP officers. However, more publicly funded officers are still allocated to the borough.

“Manhattan has the highest population density of any borough and the lowest per-capita parkland, and that creates much more regular use in the parks than we see in other boroughs. The day-time population increases to 4.2 million people, because of all the people who come to work here,” explained Kavanaugh. He also noted that 38 percent of the 311 calls related to parks come from Manhattan, and 45 percent of calls to the Parks Department relate to Manhattan parks.

On March 8, 2011 a single PEP officer was available for patrolling close to 7, 000 acres of Bronx parkland

Ferreras' rebuttal was quick and cutting: “The reality is that my community has a very tough time in understanding why their services are being taken away, and 311 isn't the first thing they're thinking about. They're trying to pay their rent; they're trying to survive; they're trying to learn English. They're trying to participate in this New York society that we're talking about, and 311 isn't necessarily part of the culture.”

Flushing Meadows in Queens spans more than 1,000 acres and has two officers on patrol. If anything happens in the park, it would be nearly impossible to find an officer, Ferreras said.

The city's parks saw a 24 percent increase in crime in 2010, noted Croft. Kavanaugh denied any rise in crime, but NYPD has confirmed an increase.

When asked why he did not hire as many PEP officers as was allotted in the budget, the deputy commissioner responded that there is no specific allotment for PEP officers in the budget.

Croft countered that this year's budget includes 151 PEP officers at $11.3 million. Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley added that she had attended the department's budget hearings and noted a specific number of PEP slots worked into the budget—a number that has been repeatedly higher than the actual officers on staff over the years.

“Unfortunately, we are unable to replace people who leave of their own volition,” replied Kavanaugh. He explained that the marked decrease in the number of officers over the years is a result of attrition and promotion, which, according to budgetary stipulations, the department cannot make up for with new hires.

The peak number of officers during Kavanaugh's three-term tenure was 157 in 2007, nearly twice the 92 publicly funded officers currently on duty. Croft pointed out that 450 PEP officers patrolled the city's parks in the mid-1990s.

Councilman James Vacca of the Bronx insisted that even as the department falls far short of the 151 PEP officers allotted by the budget, the budget should actually include even more officers. PEP is a revenue-generating entity, he pointed out.

Kavanaugh reported that PEP handed out approximately 8,300 summonses in 2010, from canine- and alcohol-related offenses to parking violations; the city collected $350,000. Vacca argued that if the city was more stringent in collecting its dues, it could afford to provide all boroughs and parks the kind of security enjoyed by the privately managed parks in Manhattan.

PEP Officers hold signs outside the hearing.

PEP available for Patrol broken down by location including borough as of Thursday April 21, 2011.

Bronx - (For 6,970,00 acres)
2 - Sgt.
1 - Captain

Brooklyn - (For 4,336,00 acres)
7 - PEP
3 - Sgt.
1 - Captain

MaCarren Park (35 acres)
1 PEP - (Privately funded)

Brooklyn Bridge Park (25 acres)
6 - PEP
3 - Sgt.
(Park privately funded through Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOTS) from residential charges)

Manhattan - (2,704,00 acres)

Union Sq. (3.5 acres)
(privately funded)

Washington Sq. (for 10 acres)
(Privately funded)

Madison Sq. (For 6 acres)
3 - PEP plus Dedicated Seasonal
(Privately funded)

Riverside Park (South) (For 7 acres)
5 - PEP
1 - Sgt.
(Privately funded through residential charges)

Riverside Park (North) - (For 316 acres)
0 - PEP

Morningside Park (30 acres)
1 - PEP (Privately funded)

Hudson River Park - (For 150 Acres)
26 PEP
4 - Sgt.
1 - Captain

High Line (2.8 acres)
4 - PEP
2 - Sgt.

Battery Park City - (For 35 acres)
35 PEP
6 - Sgt.
1 - Capt.
Plus desk CSA's
(City/State park privately funded through Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOTS) from residential charges)

Central Park
7 - North Meadow
3 - Sgt.
1 - Captain

West Harlem Piers - (2 acres)
4 - PEP (Privately funded)

Manhattan North - 125th Street to Tip - (Acres N/A)
3 - PEP
2 - AUPR (Sergeants - Supervisors)

Manhattan South - 59th Street - to the Battery (Acres N/A)
3 - PEP
1 - Sgt.
1 - Capt.

Central Park* - (For 843 acres)
102 available for patrol
20 Supervisors
*Note: Central Park has the only NYPD precinct located in a park.

Queens (For 7,300,00 acres)
3 - Sgt.
1 - Captain

Staten Island (For 7,417,00 acres)
5 - PEP
3 - Sgt.
1 - Captain

Mounted (for events)
1 Sgt.
(On patrol less than four hours out of eight hour tour)


Source: NYC Park Advocates, DPR.

Read More:

The Epoch Times - April 27, 2011 - By Tara MacIsaac

Metro NY - April 27, 2011 - By Alison Bowen

DNAinfo - April 27, 2011 - By By Jill Colvin and Jeff Mays

NY 1 - April 28, 2011 - By Dean Meminger

NY 1 Noticias - April 27, 2011 - Por Luz Plasencia

New York Times - April 27, 2011 - By Ashley Parker

Parks & Recreation Committee Holds Hearing on Parks Enforcement Patrol (PEP) Program
NYC Council Parks & Recreation Committee Blog - April 29, 2011

New York Daily News - April 26, 2011- Lisa Coangelo

Park Enforcement Officers Say They Need More Numbers
NY 1 - March 11, 2011 - By Dean Meminger

A Walk In The Park - March 8, 2011

A Walk In The Park - September 30, 2010 - By Geoffrey Croft

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. Coangelo


  1. I'm glad that the truth is finally surfacing. The PEP administration has for years used favoritism, intimidation, and retaliation to conceal the truth. Their greed for private funding has lead to the disparate treatment of civil service park rangers compared to provisionals. The PEP administration has blatantly and repeatedly violated labor laws and forced us into inhospitable and down right hostile work environments. Both the public and park rangers have been put at risk because of the PEP administration; it is now time for a change!

  2. The Park Enforcement Officers are vital to the safety of this city, they are pleasant,approachable and always willing to help out when needed. We need more Pep officers on Patrol in all Parks.

  3. First Deputy Commissioner of Parks and Recreation Liam Kavanaugh, and Assistant Commissioner Urban Park Services Michael Dockett need to put on green PEP officer uniforms and work in a contract park so they can see and feel what Urban Park Rangers go through on a daily basis so they can stop spreading any more lies!

  4. I have worked as a PEP for few years, I am so happy the truth is finally coming out.. the administrative put PEP in very dangerous position it has been times that I worked the whole Boro solo while 3 or 4 supervisors chilling in the office doing nothing and they have the nerve to write u up at the end of the day because u might of not been able to cover all the complaints they just would find some nonsense to write the poor officer up. I did work so hard for this agency I never got recognized they used me they only promoted me for the summer the step up sergeant to supervise the people from the welfare with no educational and definitely no experience I did that for 4 years and they never gave me the full time position.. I know there are people who worked in the office helping inspectors and commissioners’ whole year around and when summer come they got the step up position with ZERO experience in the field and they got the promotion and I did not that’s what goes on in NYC PARKS DEPT because I was not in the click I did not hang out with them after work. Its all who u know in parks if the Big bosses like you they will make sure you well taken car of they will even make up a position just for you.. Parks agency is so corrupted I am so glad that I am out of that agency .. from the bottom of my hart I hope changes will be made soon. .PEP do a lot of work with very litter money they deserve a lot more.. No body recognize PEP they do all the work and no one cares or fights for their rights now is the time to hear their voices even commissioner Benepe calles them Parkies shame on the agency..

  5. If I was First Deputy Commissioner of Parks and Recreation Liam Kavanaugh, and Assistant Commissioner Urban Park Services Michael Dockett I will be ashamed to face PEP after all their LIES.. Unbelievable I never heard of PEP in my life and I am a retired cop all this time they were so unrecognized and they are the one who make sure our children are safe they make sure parks and playground are safe. They definitely deserve a lot more. NYPD should take them over since they do all law enforcement they should definitely have a gun I did a lot of researches on them they do a lot for NOTHING. And how come there is almost more supervisors then officers?? WOOW amazing.. that’s right very corrupted AGENCY

  6. I understand that some parks--Central Park most notably--have private sources of funding. Overhead should be taken from all private sources and distributed to all parks in the systems. This includes PEP, but should not be limited to them.

  7. Thank you Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito, Queens Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras, Queens Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, Councilman James Vacca of the Bronx, Joe Puleo, vice president of Local 983, William Bayer, former PEP Inspector, Geoffrey Croft, president of New York City Park Advocates and all those brave enough to speak up at this hearing. Speak and our voices will be heard. We need to rally all our friends and family in a relentless effort to add more PEP officers to the ranks. As a revenue generating division we should increase the level of PEP officers closer to the 450 level of the 1990's. Contact your elected politicians and let them know how important PEP officers are to your community.

  8. I worked in a contract park with no partner, no backup, an no supervision. When I tried to bring attention to my situation, I was told that I would be written up for not wearing a hat. I find it outrageous that the PEP administration as well as its supervision knowingly put me and the public in harm's way on a daily basis. I, by the grace of God, was able to perform my duties, protect the public, and enforce park rules despite doing it all alone. However, park rangers in the outer boroughs deal with a multitude of situations and it's a matter of time before someone is seriously hurt or killed.

  9. Liam Kavanaugh, Michael Dockett, Robert Reeves, Edwin Rodriguez, Capts Greenfield & McCants should be charged and investigated for official misconduct for not only knowing but allowing such criminality, corruption, and mismanagement during their watch!

  10. They need to clean house everyone from the Dep. Inspector up should go!!!!!!! They send us on all kinds of calls such as disorderly groups, EDP's alarms. They have us doing undercover with just a radio how sad is that. They treat us like their own private security only to be overworked abused and stepped. we get written up if we were not able to get the job of their choice done. STOP THE ABUSE already!!!!!!

  11. I'm glad this all out in the open now. I've always felt that PEP officers were not given the attention & the protection they so rightfully deserve. Maybe now the Parks Department can finally stop lying to themselves & to the media... It's time for them to do what's right!

  12. It's really sad that civil servants are treated and used as if they were 6 dollar an hour contract security guards. Why have park rangers take a civil service exam if the administration are going to hire and promote provisionals regardless. Civil service law, seniority, and unionized labor means nothing to them. They treat PEP officers as if they're working in a sweatshop. PEP needs to be merged with a real law enforcement agency like the NYPD (e.g. like School Safety and Traffic).

  13. Liam said that PEP generated less than half a million dollars in summons (ticket) revenue. A study put out by the Parks Department said that in 2007, the parks generated $40 million dollars. (This does not even include tax revenue and transportation revenue.) These dollars were generated by permit fees for events, permit fees for vendors, and miscellaneous sales in the parks. My question is this: would this money be generated if people didn't think that parks were safe? Would a food vendor set up a cart in a park if he thought he would get robbed on a daily basis? Would people bring their children to the playgrounds, zoos and functions if they didn't think they were safe? Would people take their lives in their hands riding horse-pulled carriages if they thought they might be attacked? Is it too much to ask to give a tiny bit of credit, say 10%, to the Parks Enforcement Officers who by their very presence reduce crime? (Never mind the aid and assistance they provide to accident victims and lost children.) Ten percent of $40 million is $4 million dollars. At roughly $50 thousand dollars in salary and fringe benefits, that means that PEP pays for 80 officers in revenue generated by...PEP. Just as you would give credit to other law enforcement personnel for the tourist industry, PEP deserves some as well. How's the tourist industry in Iraq? Afghanistan? Isn't Mexico taking a hit because of recent unrest there? Safety plays a huge role in revenue-generation, and if our self-centered, self-aggrandized, commissioner paid some respect to PEP, instead of calling us "parkies", he might learn something. Bloomberg promised to change commissioners when he took his third term (and I really do mean "took"). Why not start with Benepe? And tell Adrian to take Sadik-Khan with him, and all of her ridiculous bike-lanes. It's unfortunate that I have to sign in as "anonymous", but we rangers know exactly why. Our supervisors would enact revenge on us in some onerous and malignant way.

  14. After working for PEP and learning what really goes on in the parks, I no feel safe in the parks and I am appalled at how the rich can buy a whole park from the parks dept including the officers, squirrels, benches, grass, and trees! It's funny how every time I pass a city park, I see dogs of the leash, people peeing on trees, dope addicts doing dope, and homeless sleeping on the benches. Too bad the rich don't care about nothing but their own private parks, or else we all might enjoy safe and crime-free natural spaces.

  15. The entire PEP administration needs to be fired! What other agency disciplines its officers for making arrests. If Parks doesn't want PEP to make arrest in their parks, then why have rules at all? Because the way they assign their officers to contract parks, their is no one around to enforce parks rules. And when a ranger does try to enforce the rules, they are told that they are not cops and to join the NYPD instead. PEP administration should go back to their own academy and learn what the park rangers are supposed to do--not what they want them to do.

  16. To my former PEP officers, you're welcome. There's nothing I love more than rattling the cages of these idiots.

  17. I say turn them over to NYPD and bring back William Bayer, former PEP Inspector so he can show them how it should be done. What action is the City Council taking on all of this?

  18. If the Parks Dept as a whole is all for leasing out public parks to rich, private organizations, then the Parks Dept should nominate Donald Trump as parks commissioner so that he could sell out the rest of the NYC park land at a profit. That way the rich could enjoy 24 hour protection from PEP in all the five boroughs.

  19. all you officers should come together and don’t do nothing no more just be the eyes and the ears just like the comisionrs claim u guys were doing all this time. All u pep should refuse to take the step up sgt position as well, that’s a very dangers job to have. that’s right William Bayer should come back

  20. Is there any follow-up to this story?

    1. There was another hearing on Jan. 30, 2012.
      Same old story.
      Transcript is available on city council website,