Monday, May 30, 2011

Hudson River Park Pier 25 Basketball Court Assault


A 27 year old male was assaulted from behind by another male (identity unknown) while playing basketball at Hudson River Park's Pier 25 in TriBeca on Friday night. The victim sustained a cut to the back of his head. The incident occurred on May 27th at 8:30pm on the courts at Harrison & West Sts.

NYPD responded and the perpetrator fled the scene upon arrival. EMS transported the victim to NY Downtown Hospital, conscious and breathing. – Geoffrey Croft

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New York Post - May 30, 2011 - By John Doyle

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Artists Race To Get Spots in Central Park Again

Sunday, May 29, 2011. 61st & Fifth Avenue- Central Park. Back to Racing. Artists waiting to race into Central Park's Wien Walk this morning at 5:55am. (Illustration By Peter Walsh)


As the summer drawing season begins, the removal of a court-ordered restraining order blocking enforcement of new park rules is again forcing artists to fight for limited spaces in New York City's Central Park and three other Manhattan parks, according to The Central Park Portrait Exchange.

This morning, with a 6:00am nod of the head from a Parks Department PEP officer, a dozen artists sprinted into Central Park's Wien Walk to secure locations. For video of the foot race shot last summer (July 2010), click here.

Then the waiting began again. The park goers and tourists who are these artists' dedicated fans and customers don't really begin arriving in any substantial numbers for about 5 hours. A long day gets longer with the new park rules.

Sunday, May 29, 2011. Artists waiting for customers in Central Park's Wien Walk, 7:15am.

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CENTRAL PARK PORTRAIT EXCHANGE - May 29, 2011 - By Peter Walsh

A Walk In The Park - May 19, 2011

Morningside Park Camera Removed

December 5, 2010. Camera in Morningside Park near the 116th stairs. (Photos: Joe Schumacher)


One day late last fall, December 5th to be exact, I was descending the 116th St. stairs in Morningside Park when I noticed a big ugly box attached to a lamp post, writes Joe Schumacher.

When I stopped to take a closer look the box spoke to me. It told me I was an unauthorized visitor. Seriously! In a park. In the middle of the day. I stood there staring at the camera (I did not make any obscene gestures) for a couple of minutes, hoping it would speak to me again. It didn't. As you can see there is no identification on the camera. Was it owned by the Parks Department? NYPD? Columbia? Friends of Morningside Park? I meant to ask and/or complain at the time but got busy and forgot about it.

Yesterday I noticed the camera was gone. I could have been gone for a while as I don't take these stairs nearly as often as I once did. One reason why is coming up in a future post, but if you are familiar with the 116th St. stairs you might know why.

May 22, 2011. The camera has been removed.

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what about the plastic animals? - May 22. 2011 - By Joe Schumacher

Musician Crackdown At Central Park's Bethesda Fountain

DEFIANT: Musicians including John Boyd are being ticketed at Bethesda Fountain, newly designated a 'Quiet Zone.'

DEFIANT: Musicians including John Boyd are being ticketed at Bethesda Fountain, newly designated a "Quiet Zone." Is this in preparation for a new 30 table bar/food concession the City is quietly planning to install five feet away?

Mr. Boyd holding seven of his summonses. (Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on images to enlarge.


City officials began blitzing street musicians with nuisance summonses and posted a "Quiet Zone" sign last week at the beloved Bethesda Fountain in Central Park, where virtuoso performers have been making beautiful music together for over a century, according to the New York Post.

On weekends, baritone John Boyd, 48, would belt out spirituals backed by a choir including six of his nine children and fellow classical buskers. But two months ago, Parks police descended on the Bethesda Terrace arcade with a message: Muzzle the music.

Last week, they posted a Quiet Zone sign banning Boyd and other serious musicians from playing in the arcade where world-class performers offer their talents for free to ordinary New Yorkers.

Bethesda Terrace Arcade. For more than a century, the area around Bethesda Terrace has been one of the cultural centers of Central Park. It has been home to thousands of talented musicians and street performers who contribute to the cultural fabric of New York City and complement the area's inspiring views.

The silky baritone's clash with officials started two months earlier.

"The Parks Department cops came and said the rules will be revamped," Boyd told The Post. "A month ago they started issuing me summonses because I would not stop singing."

After being hit with five summonses totaling $2,300, the former choir director from Detroit was arrested by Parks cops Wednesday and hauled in handcuffs to the Central Park police station.

"I have a right to free speech," said Boyd. "When I sing, it is expressing what I believe in. I told them, 'You are not chasing me away.' "

Classical harpist Meta Epstein, 59, of Mill Basin, Brooklyn, won first prize at the Paris Conservatory of Music in the 1970s. But she's afraid to play in the park.

"It was very intimidating. It was a patch of dirt. They told me I was destroying the ground, but there were picnickers right there. Now I'm afraid to play, especially in the fountain terrace," she said.

Double-bass player Vasyl Fomytskyi, formerly of the Cairo Symphony Orchestra, has been playing his beloved Bach near the fountain for two years.

"If I play softly by myself, [cops] still have threatened to arrest me and confiscate my instrument," he said.

Newcomer Shigemasa Nakano, 31, a classical guitarist and opera singer, says he's disappointed because acoustics in the arcade are superb.

"But . . . I don't want to get a ticket," he said.

On Friday, passer-by Rhonda Liss, 63, of Yonkers, asked Boyd if she could join him in an impromptu duet.

"You have such a beautiful voice," said Liss, a onetime Met opera singer and "Phantom of the Opera" cast member in Toronto. The pair tossed off a jazzy rendition of "My Favorite Things."

"Is this what they want to arrest people for -- singing joy to the people?" she asked incredulously.

When asked about the music crackdown, a spokesman for the Central Park Conservancy, the cash-flush nonprofit that runs the park for the city, said: "The fountain is a place for quiet reflection."

Read More:

Musicians chased from Central Park
New York Post - May 29, 2011 - By Cynthia R. Fagen

NYC Central Park musicians told to shut up
The Associated Press - May 29, 2011

New York Times - June 1, 2011

WNYC - May 30, 2011- By Marlon Bishop

As Expected New Smoking Law Ignored In Coney Island Boardwalk And Beach

Amanda Freeman lights up on the Coney Island beach despite new laws prohibiting such behavior went into effect last week.
Amanda Freeman lights up on the Coney Island beach despite new laws prohibiting such behavior went into effect last week. As expected, the new smoking ban in parks and beaches is being routinely ignored due to the City's lack of enforcement. (Photo: John Taggart for News)


Fuming over the new parks smoking ban, a cigarette-puffing crowd protested Saturday by lighting up along the Coney Island Boardwalk, according to the New York Daily News.

No Park Police came into sight during the hour-and-a-half exercise in civil disobedience led by Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment, or CLASH.

Along the section of beach near Brighton Sixth St., Howard Yourow called the ban illegal and unconstitutional, as he carefully cut the tip of a Dominican "Punch" cigar.

"Here we are, the great outdoors, the beach and the huge sky," he said, barefoot and wearing a pin that read "I smoke and I vote."

"For them to ban smoking in the great outdoors is an overreach of power," Yourow said.

He then stuffed a pipe, a cigar and a cigarette into his mouth - all at once.

The City Council voted in February to prohibit smoking in pedestrian plazas, 1,700 city parks and playgrounds, along with 14 miles of public beaches. The newest ban went into effect this week.

Violators face $50 fines. Parks Department enforcement officers, not the NYPD, are in charge of issuing the tickets.

A Daily News staffer got the first ticket on Friday, but only after six hours of wandering the High Line and the Coney Island beach with cigarettes.

"Park Enforcement officers ... do have the ability to issue summonses to those who do not comply with the parks rules, and when possible will educate and advise before taking further action when overseeing compliance," a Parks spokesperson said.

CLASH founder Audrey Silk has been huffing and puffing about smoking bans since then-Gov. George Pataki's 1999 cigarette tax hike.

"[Politicians] have preferred to rescind our civil liberties rather than advise the public to walk away," she said. "What a tyranny we're living under that they make these decisions on a whim? We smoked before the ban, we're going to smoke after the ban."

Jack Kovalev, 21, agreed that people should be able to smoke: "Everyone's stressed out in this city," he said. "Cigarettes take that stress off."

But Galina Turalina, 21, was appalled.

"I'm shocked!" the visitor from Philadelphia said. "It's embarrassing. I've never seen a group of people gathering in favor of smoking. Is this what we're teaching our children?"

Ten-year-old Gabriela Centeno of Brighton Beach, echoed that sentiment. The Public School 253 student thinks the ban is healthy for the future of New York.

"I think it's a good choice because there can be secondhand smoke and people can get asthma, lung cancer and get sick," she said, while walking along the beach with her grandmother and baby brother."

Read More:

New York Daily News - May 28, 2011 - By Al Barbarino and Katie Nelson

A Walk In The Park - May 28, 2011

Saturday, May 28, 2011

First Smoker Finally Ticketed In Ban - City Lies About Number Of Officers

Photographer Pearl Gabel finally scored a ticket around 6 p.m. after flouting the new city rules for hours without detection.
After flagrantly flouting the law PEP officer Carlton Conheim finally writes the City's first smoking ticket on the High Line. In a front page story, under the banner, CITY"S WACKY OUTDOOR SMOKING BAN, the Daily News spent a total of six hours doing everything they could to get a ticket five days after the ban went into effect. They got a first-hand look at the lax enforcement. The Parks Department falsely claims it has 400 officers patrolling its parks when in fact they have less than 100, and of those the majority are assigned to privately run contract parks (Photo: Kevin Hagen for the NY Daily News)

City Wide

The Daily News landed the city's first smoking ban ticket Friday - and it took all day to do it.

The News sent one staffer to the beach at Coney Island and another to the High Line, spending a total of six hours doing everything they could to get a ticket. They got a first-hand look at the lax enforcement.

Photographer Pearl Gabel, after flagrantly puffing in the presence of a Parks Department officer for a couple hours, finally scored about 6 p.m.

"I warned you before," said Officer Carlton Conheim, a smoldering enforcement agent with a menthol green uniform.

Then he wrote out a $50 summons for ignoring the ban, which began on Monday, that prohibits smoking in parks, pedestrian plazas and beaches.

"Have a nice day," Conheim said.

Then he turned on his heels and headed back down the High Line.

Getting the ticket wasn't easy.

Gabel had to walk a mile with her Camel Lights before she even saw a Parks officer. Standing 4 feet away, the officer refused to even look at the shutterbug, who was smoking like a chimney as he passed.

Newser Joe Jackson headed to Coney Island, lighting up his first American Spirits cigarette just after 2 p.m. An NYPD officer assigned to the 60th Precinct gave Jackson an immediate heads-up.

"Be careful," he said. "Parks Department will give you a ticket."

The NYPD will not enforce the smoking ban after several City Council members feared the new law would be an excuse to question and frisk people. But at the beach yesterday, it didn't appear Parks police were enforcing it either.

Two Parks police officers patrolling the Boardwalk in an SUV didn't give Jackson a second look as he took a drag on a cigarette. Other Parks officers made eye contact, but then zoomed by on four-wheelers.

Nearly four hours bled off the clock. Parks police officers rolled back and forth. Jackson burned through seven cigarettes. And nothing. Not even a warning from the Parks police.

The Parks Department has said that with 400 officers patrolling 1,700 parks and 14 miles of beaches, it doesn't have the manpower to enforce the law. City officials said they were depending on the public to enforce the ban.

Good luck with that.

Michael Mooney, 28, a soul singer from Queens, was enjoying the weather on the High Line yesterday. No one hassled him about his habit.

"I was smoking over by the bench and no one gave me a problem," he said.

Read More:

New York Daily News - May 28, 2011 - By Pearl Gabel, Joe Jackson and Janon Fisher

New York Daily News - May 24, 2011 - By Kerry Burke, Erin Einhorn and John Lauinger

A Walk In The Park - May 26, 2011 - By Geoffrey Croft

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Battery Park City Excluded From City's Smoking Ban

A pre-school playgroup yesterday in Robert F. Wagner Park in Battery Park City. "We pay city taxes, these are city park officers and it (the law) should be enforced the same way," said Battery Park City mother of two Brooke McDonald, holding her 2 month old baby Hunter. "Especially because there are so many families down here. You come down down to get some fresh air and you get slammed. Its ridiculous. There are more children down here than in any other place in the City. "

Parks patrol officers have been told to politely enforce the new smoking ban -- and set up a system where violators essentially have to beg for a ticket before they'll be fined, according to the New York Post.

(Photos © Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on images to enlarge.

By Geoffrey Croft

In what could turn out to be a smokers paradise one place you will not find any enforcement of the city's new smoking ban is in Battery Park City parks. City Parks Department Park Enforcement Patrol (PEP) officers who patrol the lush 36 acres of parkland have been instructed not to write summons according to internal documents obtained by NYC Park Advocates. The documents also reveal smokers in other parks could be fined up to $ 300 dollars, a figure six times greater than previously made public.

Apparently not all rules apply.

"These documents should be kept internally with Parks, " the memo states, "Please do not circulate to non-parks personnel."

The nearly 36 acres of parks in Battery Park City located along Manhattan's lower Westside waterfront consist of parks, playgrounds, plazas, ballfelds, lawns and esplanades. The parks are operated by The Battery Park City Conservancy (BPC Parks) a non-profit organization under the jurisdiction the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA).

According to the Conservancy's website, the parks are permanently protected as "mapped parkland" by the City of New York, and are officially considered to be independently operated units of the City park system.

Partners. Numerous signs like this can be found throughout the parks in Battery Park City.

"We're being told not to issue summons because its state property," said numerous PEP officers in the park.

"We pay city taxes, these are city park officers and it (the law) should be enforced the same way," said Battery Park City mother of two Brooke McDonald, holding her 2 month old baby Hunter. "Especially because there are so many families down here. You come down down to get some fresh air and you get slammed. Its ridiculous. There are more children down here than any other place in the City. "

The City's new No Smoking rules can not be found on any signs in Battery Park City.

NYC Park Advocates has also learned that Hudson River Parks Trust, a City/State agency that operates 150 acres of parkland adjacent to Battery Park City - is also not participating in the smoking ban. Both of these parks have refused to install no smoking signs. The quasi city/state Brooklyn Bridge Park however is participating in the smoking ban according to a City Parks Department spokesperson.

A City Parks Department spokesperson said the smoking policy in Battery City Parks and Hudson River Park "now have it under review."

On Friday May 20, The Urban Park Service (UPS) Operations Order was emailed to all PEP officers marked N/A (not applicable) at this time to Battery Park City. The communication was also sent to employees at Hudson River Park.

42 full-time dedicated City PEP officers work the 36 acres of public parkland in Battery Park City, the greatest number of officers assigned to any parkland in the city. The Battery Park City Authority pays the city more than two million dollars annually for the PEP. The park's are privately funded through Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOTS) collected from residential charges, and from ground leases.

More operational details have emerged.

Hidden Fees

Smokers who don't comply with the new law could be fined up to $ 300 dollars total. According to the Parks Department website, people who violate the new law could receive a $50 ticket. However according to the internal documents, that fine can rise another $ 250 if the person refuses to comply with an officer.

"Failure to comply with an officer is a $ 250 fine, so exercise discretion when issuing this summons for smoking violation," the memo states. This information however is not posted on the Parks Department's website.
The City also wants its officers to tape record the public receiving summons.

If the person refuses to either put out the cigarette/cigar/pipe and or refuses to leave the area the Operating Order instructs the officer to:

1. Make sure the audio recorder is activated.

2. Advise the person that failure to comply with this lawful order can result in a summons being issued.

3. Practice all verbal judo skills to try to obtain voluntary compliance.

4. If proper identification is received issue an Environmental Control Board Summonses under the Parks Rules and Regulations for failure to comply with a posted sign A04 56 RCNY 1-03 (c) (2) or in absence of a sign, failure to comply with the directives of an officer A03 56RCNY 1-03 9c) 1.

Smoking will be allowed at Yankee and Shea Stadium parking lots.

This is the first time the enforcement policy has surfaced in writing.

"Over the next week, ashtrays will be removed from outside all our buildings and comfort stations, and no smoking signs will be posted throughout our properties," Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe wrote in an Internal Broadcast message sent to all employees on Friday, May 20th.

According to the city 36 smoking complains were made to 311 as of Tuesday and no summons have been issued so far.

A park patron smoked a cigarette yesterday in Battery Park City.

Madison Square Park has multiple no smoking signs up at the entrances to the park.

On May 23rd, it became illegal to smoke in the New York City's over 1, 700 parks and on its 14 miles of beaches. In February the City Council voted 32-16 to ban smoking. A city Parks Department spokeswoman said the Bloomberg administration is in the process of erecting 3, 000 to 4, 000 permanent signs saying "Smell Flowers, Not Smoke" to educate people to the new law.

The Mayor has repeatedly said enforcement will be left to Parks Department's Park Enforcement Patrol and mostly by other New Yorkers themselves.

Read More:

Village Voice Blog - May 27 2011 - By Joe Coscarelli

gothamist - May 27, 2011 - By Garth Johnston

The Epoch Times - May 26, 2011 - By Zack Stieber

CBS - May 26, 2011 - By Don Daylor

NY1 News - May 26, 2011

New York Post - May 26, 2011 - By John Doyle, C.J Sullivan and Jeremy Olshan

New York Post - May 24, 2011- By Danny Gold and Jeremy Olshan

New York Daily News - May 24, 2011 - By Erin Durkin
Associated Press - May 23 2011 - By Verena Dobnik

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Like Safe Parks? Don't Count On City To Help Out

Like safe parks? Don't count on city to help out

BY GEOFFREY CROFT, Monday, May 23, 2011

The Parks Department's Park Enforcement Patrol (PEP), whose responsibility is to ensure "the safe use of parks," is severely understaffed. Over the last six weeks alone, there have been five shootings, including four deaths, on park land. It is no secret that having a uniformed officer present acts as a deterrent. Unfortunately, in today's political climate only a few chosen parks in wealthy neighborhoods are being afforded this "privilege."

In 2010, crime in parks grew 24%, yet the mayor's budget includes just $11.3 million in city funds for 151 PEP positions. The number of full-time officers has declined dramatically from a high of 450 in the mid-1990s. This is alarming, considering they are responsible for securing more than 29,000 acres (14% of the city's land). It is important to note that crime is tracked in only 30 of the city's 1,700 parks and playgrounds.

At full strength, only seven full-time dedicated PEP officers are available to patrol more than 6,700 acres of parkland in Queens, five for 6,970 acres in the Bronx, seven for Brooklyn's 4,336 acres, and five for Staten Island's 7,400 acres. These numbers drop further when you factor in vacations, sick days and days off.

And that's the good news. During the summer these numbers decline dramatically as the majority of PEP personnel are deployed to beaches and pools.

Over the next few weeks, Queens will lose three officers, the Bronx two and Brooklyn five. This leaves the vast majority of city parks completely unprotected. Some days there are no officers available for patrol. These numbers are shocking considering the tens of millions of people who use our parks annually.

By sharp contrast, an increasing number of public parks - almost exclusively in Manhattan - have a dedicated security presence, some 24/7. More than 50% of PEP officers are now permanently assigned to "contract parks" - parks run by select private nonprofits, or other government agencies that buy what are supposed to be a basic city service. A few shell out more than $2 million annually. Contractually, these parks are required to have a minimum number of officers deployed.

For example, Battery Park City has more than 40 officers for 35 acres, Hudson River Park has more than 30 officers for 150 acres. Madison Square Park has three, plus seasonals for 6 acres: Bryant Park spends $900,000 annually for 22 private security personnel, including 12 patrol officers for its 6 acres. The Bloomberg administration has assigned 11 full-time officers to the High Line's 2.8 acres.

Central Park also has multiple PEP officers assigned, in addition to having its own police precinct with more than 125 officers.

These numbers highlight the enormous disparity between publicly funded parks and those that receive substantial private funds. The city's increasing reliance on these schemes has resulted in a vastly unequal distribution of service. Experience over the last 20 years has proven that private subsidies to individual parks have created an enormous gap between the haves and the have-nots, while ignoring the real problem - that our parks are not funded as an essential city service.

Compounding the problem, the city has repeatedly tried to mislead the public on the deployment numbers.

It was revealed at a recent City Council hearing that the number of PEP officers hired from city funds fell far short of the amount adopted in the budget. A senior Parks official said this was to due to a hiring freeze. That is not accurate. There have been four PEP academy classes over the last year. However, the officers hired have been diverted to contract parks.

Investing in PEP also makes financial sense because it costs considerably less than deploying NYPD officers to park patrol, and PEP frees the police for more pressing issues. There are also 8,000 fewer NYPD officers available for patrol than a decade ago.

All communities deserve safe, well-maintained parks, not just those that can afford to pay extra. This is a basic quality-of-life issue. We need our elected officials to allocate the necessary funds and to make sure they are distributed equally.

Geoffrey Croft is president of NYC Park Advocates.

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New York Daily News - May 23, 2011 - By Geoffrey Croft