The Police Department erected a portable SkyWatch observation tower in Tompkins Square Park yesterday. Recent news reports have focused on homeless activity in the famed East Village park. (Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on images to enlarge.
By Geoffrey Croft
The Police Department has deployed a portable SkyWatch observation tower in Tompkins Square Park, NYC Park Advocates has learned.
The tower was erected yesterday as a "deterrent" according to several officers familiar with the move.
The deployment comes after several high ranking city officials including Mayor de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton visited the park recently after news outlets reported an uptick in the number of homeless activities in the East Village park.
The SkyWatch towers, manufactured by Forward-Looking InfraRed (FLIR) Security Systems, have four digital cameras including HD, thermal, and infrared which allow police to monitor and record surveillance footage. The tower also has a high-powered spotlight and various sensors.
The two story tall tower is a portable surveillance system that allows an officer a high vantage point to observe activity. The machine collapses and can easily be moved to various locations.
Yesterday a number of homeless people could be found throughout the park. A large contingency occupied a number of benches on park's south-west end and were seen smoking, drinking and sleeping.
Yesterday a homeless couple had three large dogs in an area that is off-limits to canines. Just five Park Enforcement Patrol officers, plus two supervisors cover hundreds of park properties in Manhattan South - from 59th Street to the tip of the island. The City hired no additional PEP officers in the recently passed budget.
The park's bathrooms remain a constant source of dangerous activity according to several city employees.
Shooting drugs, finding used and unused hypodermic needles, stealing liquid soap, and having sex are the main bathroom complaints.
"Would I want my kids in the park? Absolutely not," said a parks worker.
"It's a shame because it's a beautiful park. Tourists also come here. No one should have to be subjected to this. We don't have the people (personnel) we need."
Tompkins Square Park isn't the only area park with homeless conditions - several other downtown Manhattan parks including Washington Square and Union Square Parks also remain problematic.
A few weeks ago the Mayor and City Council passed another embarrassing parks budget which allocates just $ 354,761 million in city funds out of an overall $ 78.5 billion budget for the Parks Department, an agency responsible for 14% of the city's land.
That is less than one half of one percent (0.45%) of the budget allocated to maintain more than 29,000 acres of city park land.
Just five Park Enforcement Patrol officers, plus two supervisors are assigned to cover hundreds of park properties located in Manhattan South - from 59th Street to the tip of the island. The City hired no additional officers in the recently passed budget.
Despite the best efforts of park employees certain park users continue to reach in and turn on the water which causes unsanitary and unsafe park conditions.