Thursday, March 7, 2013

City Hiring Hundreds of Park Workers - Doubling Number Of Park Enforcement

City Hiring Hundreds Of Park Workers For Depleted Agency

When 14-year-old Kemar Bryan Brooks was gunned down in Haffen Park in the Bronx in July after playing tennis not a single Park Enforcement Patrol (PEP) officer  was available to patrol the Bronx's more than 7, 000 acres of parkland due to dramatic staffing cuts. Queens had just one dedicated PEP officer available for patrol for one eight hour shift daily and Brooklyn had only two. (Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates)


By Geoffrey Croft

The city is doubling the number of Park Enforcement Officers and hiring hundreds of other workers - but only after the giant audit firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers said they were needed NYC Park Advocates has learned. 

The City is hiring 81 PEP (PEP)  with the plan to hire an additional 24 officers on grant lines for so-called "contract parks."  

The City is also hiring 207 City Park Workers and 30 Climbers and Pruners for the severally understaffed agency.  The Bloomberg administration has allowed the ranks of Climbers and Pruners to go down to less than 100 to care for the city's more than 2.5 million trees.

In total the 

200 City Seasonal Aids (CSA's) are also being hired for Jamaica Bay as part of the joint National Park Service and city initiative. The City is reportedly receiving $ 11 million dollars as part of a $ 22 million Federal grant to clean the waterways.

The long suffering Parks Department had requested the additional employees but the agency had to first convince and justify the expenditures to the Bloomberg administration according to several city sources with knowledge of the initiative. 

The ranks of the Park Enforcement Patrol have been decimated as crime has continued to rise in parks.  The Parks Department is hiring 414 employees in total in a variety of titles including maintenance and operations and trades workers.  

PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) was hired by the administration to analyze how the Parks Department "manages staff resources" and to develop a "workforce model" as part of a agency-wide initiative called “Parks Operations for the 21st Century” or OPS 21.

This summer PWC employees were dispatched to numerous parks throughout the city to "audit" the agency. 

Some park workers complained that PWC employees said they were representing the city.

"They came up to us claiming they were working for the city,"  said a parks worker who requested anonymity.  

Critics point out  that the ranks of the only uniformed police dedicated to city parks have been decimated.  Under former Parks Commissioner Adrain Benepe the Bloomberg Administration allowed the number of PEP to plummet  to record lows - under 90 officers.  At a City council hearing last year then Parks Commissioner Benepe said the agency lost 42% of their officers since 2008.

The PEP hires brings the number up but it is far below the 450 officers the city employed in the 90's.

Several City Council members have told A Walk In The Park when they asked the Benepe about restoring funding for PEP he discouraged it saying they weren't a priority and crime in parks was being overblown.

Park officials meanwhile continue to their attempt to minimize the number of crime incidents and the lack of officers by repeatedly maintaining that parks are "safer than they've ever been."

"Adrain Benepe conducted an active campaign to dismantle PEP to relieve them of the burden of protecting our parks so they could focus their energies on happy days and green pastures reporting," said Joe Puleo,  Chair of the Parks Committee for DC 37. 

PEP wasn't even included in the initial study categories until that embarrassing issue came to light at a July meeting held between upper park management, PriceWaterhouseCoopers representatives  nd union officials at the Parks Department headquarters. 

In August the Parks Department appointed a new assistant commissioner for operations to oversee the agency's work with the audit giant.

"We have a long way to go,  but it's a good first step, "  Mr. Puleo said of the city hiring hundreds of new workers in various titles.

"I am greatly encouraged by the news that the City plans to hire additional Park Enforcement Patrol (PEP) officers, as well as maintenance and tree pruning staff,"  Melissa Mark-Viverito, City Council Parks Committee Chair said in a statement.

"All of us on the Council's Parks & Recreation Committee have been consistent in voicing our concerns to the administration on the impact of reduced staffing on the safety and condition of our parks, which we were already beginning to see in the data. That's why we fought for a historic budget restoration to the Parks Department in Fiscal Year 2013 negotiations. Following several incidents in parks last year, I also joined Speaker Quinn and my colleagues to call for additional PEP officers."

Read More:

The Wall Street Journal - March 7, 2013 - Micheal Saul

gothamist - March 7, 2013 - Garth Johnston 

Metro NY - By Danielle Tcholakian- March 7, 2013  

New York Daily News - March 6, 2013 - By Lisa L. Colangelo     

1 comment:

  1. So the Mayor pays hundreds of thousands of dollars to the priciest consulting firm to find out what all park advocates already know (that would have cost Bloomberg nothing if he cared to listen to all the city's Community Boards): parks are underfunded, underprotected and under-seige from private development. Too bad the Unions have lost their nerve and never protected their jobs in the first place. A monumental mess, curtesy of Bloomberg. When will the NY Times finally realize this "park advocate mayor" has no clothes? A damn, damn shame.