Thursday, July 21, 2011

Lack Of Park Safety Raised Again After Brazen Park Bike Theft

On July 5th, employees from Bike New York discovered 35 bikes had been stolen from their storage container in Flushing Meadows Corona Park located next to the Worlds Fair New York State Pavilion.

The public has raised serious concerns about the level of safety in parks. In 2010 park crime jumped twenty-four percent in just 30 out of the1700 parks and playgrounds the city keeps statistics for.

Yesterday Queens had only one PEP officer available to patrol 6700 acres of parkland. Parks spokesperson Vickie Karp refused to comment on the staffing levels of park officers to NY1.

At a April 27th City Council oversight hearing on Park Enforcement Patrol (PEP) Michael Dockett, the head of PEP, was asked by Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras - who represents the area - how many officers were assigned to Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Mr. Dockett said there were 12 officers. Upon further questioning however he changed the number to 2. The actual number was actually zero as the heavily utilized 1200 acre park does not have a single dedicated PEP officer assigned to it park year-round. In fact at that time the entire borough of Queens had only 7 officers available for patrol. (Yesterday only 1 officer plus 1 Sgt. were available)

Some good news on the bike front. Yesterday Schwinn and the controversial retailer Walmart agreed to donate 70 bikes to replace the 35 bicycles that were stolen. (Photo: © Geoffrey Croft/ NYC Park Advocates)


Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is not missing a tweet in its attempt to enter New York City, according to Crain's New York.

After company officials learned of the theft of 35 bikes, 40 helmets and a pump at a nonprofit that provides free lessons to kids, they sprung into action. They learned of the theft via a Crain's reporter's Twitter post and other media coverage.

Walmart officials called Bike New York and offered to replace the bikes and other equipment. Schwinn, which had sold the bikes to the group at cost, also offered replacements. And so the Manhattan-based group, whose mission is to promote bicycling and bike safety, will now be able to expand its Camp Bike New York program in Flushing Meadows Corona Park instead of canceling it.

The bikes and equipment, worth about $10,000, were lifted from a trailer near the World's Fair New York State Pavilion. Staff discovered the theft on July 5. It was first reported Tuesday by A Walk in the Park, a news site run by NYC Park Advocates, and was tweeted by this reporter and later reported by media outlets.

“We're delighted that Walmart and Schwinn have stepped up to save Camp Bike New York and other bike-education programs in Flushing Meadows Corona Park,” said Ken Podziba, president of Bike New York.

“There are lots of families who depend on that program,” a Walmart spokesman said. “We just thought it was the right thing to do.”

Organizers say that Camp Bike New York, which gives free biking lessons to about 300 New York City kids per week in the Queens park, will resume when the new bikes arrive. The program runs through Aug. 26.

Bike New York, founded in 2000, is probably best known for running the Five-Boro Bike Tour.

The bike donation by Walmart is the latest gift in its high-profile attempt to win hearts and minds as it tries to open its first store in the city. Earlier this summer, Walmart gave $4 million to the city's summer jobs program to help save 3,400 positions. It donated more than $4 million last year to local charities, including City Harvest, Dress for Success and the Food Bank for New York City. And it gave $9 million to city nonprofits over the three previous years.

Opponents of the retailer have said that Walmart's donations are a cynical attempt to buy favor. They plan to rally Thursday at Columbus Circle against a possible Walmart store in East New York, Brooklyn.

Read More:

Crain's New York - July 20, 2011 - By Daniel Massey

NY 1 - July 20, 2011 - By CeFaan Kim

A Walk In The Park - July 19, 2011 - By Geoffrey Croft

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