Friday, July 21, 2017

Suspect Wanted In Knife-Point Sexual Assaults Apprehended In Queens Playground


By Geoffrey Croft

Police have apprehended a 30-year-old suspect wanted in connection with two sexual assaults in two straight days  in a Queens park, including a knife point rape according to the police. 
While canvassing Kissena Park on Thursday police spotted a man they said matched the description inside a playground in the same park where he hunted his victims.

Police took Charles Tobin into custody. 

On Tuesday in Kissena Park Corridor, at 11:00pm a black male approached a 32-year woman from behind at knife point and robbed her of $ 50 dollars.  He then forced her into a wooded area where he instructs her to put a condom on him before raping her.  

On Wednesday, the next night at 11:30 p.m, a 17-year-old female Asian was walking in the park after going for a jog when she was approached by a male black with a knife. He placed the knife to her neck according to police and forced her into a wooded area where the attacker demands oral sex. He instructs her to put a condom on him, she complies and went about the sex act. 

After the sexual assault he fled the park.

Police found a condom wrapper at the scene which is being tested for DNA.     

The incident occurred in the park near 56 Avenue and Main Street within the confines of the 109th Precinct.    

The suspect arrested was described as a male black, approximately 30-years-old, 5’7” and last seen wearing a red tank-top.

Charges are pending Friday as of this afternoon.

For years the public has complained about the lack of dedicated park police. These pleas have been ignored. 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Queens City Council Candidate Moya Calls For Seizing Parkland In FMCP - Doesn't Know Why

City Council candidate Francisco Moya is calling for the seizing parkland in Flushing Meadows-Corona he says to create affordable housing and community jobs at Willets Point but is unable to say what the connection is between the park and his plan. In June New York’s highest court rejected a proposal to build a mega-mall on the same site in Flushing Meadows Park. The court ruled that State Alienation approval was necessary in order to commercially build on the public parkland, something Moya promises to help achieve. Moya is holding a press conference today.  (Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates)


By Geoffrey Croft

A candidate running for a City Council seat is calling on the Mayor to support his plan to size 30 acres of Flushing Meadows - Corona Park, public land the State’s highest court just ruled in favor of protecting.   

New York State Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D - Corona) running for Julissa Ferreras’s City Council seat is pushing to alienate the parkland and says he will fight hard to do it if elected.

 “Moya has pledged to work with colleagues in the legislature to secure the required parkland alienation provisions if his proposal moves forward,” a campaign press release stated.

In June the State’s highest court rejected the $1 billion Bloomberg-era giveaway of 47.5 acres of public parkland in Flushing Meadow’s Corona Park - to one of the country’s most politically connected developers, along with NY Mets owners -  to build the city’s largest mall.

Assemblyman Moya says alienating the park is part of his plan to create “Historic Levels of Affordable Housing and Community Jobs at Willets Point.”

However when asked how the parkland and his affordable housing plan for Willets Point were related the campaign was unable to provide any details.

The Moya campaign was asked what the plan was for the parkland if they were successful in securing  “the required parkland alienation provisions.”

The press release or the campaign offered no information or details on how the parkland is related to Willets Point or to his affordable housing proposal which is obviously the key to the proposal.    

“Moya’s proposal comes shortly after a decision last month by the New York State Court of Appeals striking down the Willets West phase of the proposed redevelopment, “ the press release stated.

"The plan, which would have brought a shopping center and movie theater to the 30-acre site immediately west of Citi Field, was intended to be the first phase in the two-part redevelopment of the Willets Point Site. However, the Court of Appeals struck the plan down on the grounds that the land, which is technically parkland pertaining to the adjacent Flushing-Meadows Park, would first require state lawmakers' approval. Moya has pledged to work with colleagues in the legislature to secure the required parkland alienation provisions if his proposal moves forward,” the release read.

The statement contained several bits of misleading information.

The parkland was not part of the 2008 Willets Point development plan and was not intended to be the first phase in the two-part redevelopment of the Willets Point Site.   The Queens Development Group - a joint venture between The Related Companies and Sterling Equities had desperately tried to link the two projects. 

The parkland is not “technically parkland” it is parkland and it is not “adjacent Flushing-Meadows Park,” it is in Flushing-Meadows Park.    

Queens City Council candidate Francisco Moya wants to help seize parkland in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park but is unable to say what for.

The Moya campaign also states his proposal was developed with community groups and stakeholders. 

“Assemblyman Moya ​has met with local residents and community groups to develop this proposal for the future of Willets Point,” the campaign said in a statement last week to A Walk In the Park. “

“These are the stakeholders that will be most affected by any development at the site, and addressing their needs for open space, truly affordable housing and employment opportunities are the Assemblyman’s top priority,” a campaign spokesperson wrote.   

The campaign was unable to provide details when asked what community groups and stakeholders were involved in helping to develop this proposal but pointed to a town hall meeting ten years ago in Jackson Heights by the Pratt Center for Community Development.  The 2007 meeting it should be noted did not mention taking public parkland. 

Which community groups and stakeholders are supporting this plan may at least partially be answered today when the Moya campaign holds a rally at 2:30pm.

According to the release today’s press conference participants include Make The Road, a city-funded non-profit with close ties to this administration including Jullissa Ferreras and Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito, and the Jackson Heights Green Alliance,  Queens Fairness Coalition, groups that supportive of the initial plan.

Make The Road supported taking the parkland and helped the local council member. After Julissa Ferreras successfully orchrestated  the deal culminating in the City Council vote in Ocotober 2013 she publicly thanked the groups that helped make it possible - Make The Road,  The Queens Fairness Coalition, and New Yorkers For Parks.

Moya has the support of the Queens County Democrats. His campaign was asked it they were supporting the development of Flushing Meadows Park to their knowledge.  The campaign declined to answer.

The campaign was also asked if anyone associated with his campaign has met with the former proposed developer, Related Companies, or Sterling Equities or with REBNY and any unions regarding this proposal?

The campaign said no it hadn't.

Not surprising plaintiffs were not happy.

“It’s very disappointing to see candidate Moya willing to squander the community’s hard-won court victory, which protects Flushing Meadows Corona Park land,” plaintiff Irene Prestigiacomo said in a statement.
"Moya’s willets Point plan includes his support for alienating the parkland which the recent court victory protects.  Moya needs a reality check, to understand that the community opposes developing parkland and just concluded a long court case to preserve the same land that Moya is eager to give to developers. Moya's willingness to sacrifice public parkland shows his apparent support of and allegiance to developers and the elitist owners of the Mets, above the constituents he wants to vote for him! He wants the community’s vote while unashamedly letting us know he has no respect for the hard-won court victory,” she said.

“The Queens Civic Congress opposes any more alienation of this much needed park land,  said  its president Kevin J. Forrestal. "Park land is essential part of the infrastructure supporting it’s surrounding communities. Keep park land as parks,” he stated. 

 “Another Clown has joined the circus,”  opined plaintiff Alfredo Centola.  

“When will these leeches learn that the public is their boss and the public has spoken repeatedly.”

Note: The author was a plaintiff in the lawsuit.  

Read More:

A Walk In The Park - Juen 6, 2017 -  By Geoffrey Croft

NY 1 - June 6, 2017 - By Gene Apodaca 

CBS - June 7, 2017 - By Carolyn Gusoff

New York Times - June 6, 2017 - By Sarah Maslin Nir 

New York Daily News - June 6, 2017-  By Glenn Blain - June 6, 2017 -  By Suzanne Monteverdi  

New York Law Journal - June 6, 2017 - By Mark Hamblett  

A Walk In The Park - October 10, 2013 - By Geoffrey Croft

Friday, July 14, 2017

UES Residents Angry Over Secret Parkland Takeover For East River Esplanade Fix

Construction fencing had already been erected around a popular hill in Carl Schurz Park when the community began to find out about the city’s plans.  A move which as angered Yorkville residents.  This is not the first time the Parks Deparment has moved ahead with a  plan in CB 8 without the communty knowing about it.  (Photos: NYC Park Adovcates) Click on images to enlarge.


By Geoffrey Croft

There will be no sledding this winter along with any other public uses for the better part of a year residents were told last night.

Dozens of community residents poured into a normally sleepy July CB 8 Parks Committee meeting to express their anger and frustration over a city plan to build a temporary road in the middle of a popular hill in Carl Schurz Park, a few feet way from Gracie Mansion. 

A plan they knew nothing about. 

A rumor had circulated that the city was planning to use the beloved hill - popular with picnickers, sunbathers, readers, and sledders in the winter - as a staging area for the city’s long delayed reconstruction of a nearby section of the East River Esplanade. In May a fifty foot section collapsed into the East River behind the Mayor’s house after decades of deferred maintenance.

The rumor was at least partially true.   Last night Parks Department representatives confirmed that it is planning to build a temporary road, made of gravel and recycled asphalt in the middle of the lush green hill in order to accommodate construction vehicles.  The city denied it was going to level it but said two trees would be removed. 

The city expects the work to begin by the end of summer and be completed by May 2018.   After the work is finished the hill would be restored.  

Like a page out of Robert Caro's The Power Broker, the community found out about the plan not from the City but instead from a construction worker at the site. 

The city will begin fixing sections of the East River Esplanade after a fifty foot section collapsed into the East River behind Grace Mansion in May. 

Once word leaked out fliers were plastered throughout the community warning of the impending plan.

“That’s a crazy way to find out the information,”  said neighborhood resident Helaine Eisenberg. “If the people who are making the decision are not directly communicating with the community its affecting, that’s a problem," she said.  

Compounding the problem is that Community Board 8 ranks dead last in the provision of parks and open space city-wide.

“Even if we temporarily lose park space that's terrible for this community because we have very little and that’s disturbing,”  she said.      

One of the main sticking points was why the community was only finding out about the plan now after construction crews had already begun erecting fences around the popular grassy knoll.  

During the meeting the Park Department was asked several times why the community was only finding out about the plan now.

Eleven-year-old Ethan Ladder,  son of CB 8 Board member Craig Ladder, stepped up to the mic and asked why the public had not been notified.  

After word had leaked out organizers plastered the community with fliers warning of the impending plan The city is planning to use a beloved feature of Carl Schurz Park as a staging area for construction vechiles located at East End Avenue and E. 89th street. 

Manhattan Parks Commissioner Bill Castro responded later by saying that both the Community Board and the office of City Council Member Ben Kallos had been notified of the plan several weeks earlier.

Castro did his best to avoid admitting that the city had not informed the community of its plan to use the park as a staging area. He said there was a press conference at the time of the collape in May inferring that his issue was covered then.  

“The elected officials were notified about this, yes they were and there was a press conference also about the - there was coverage when the wall collapsed and we informed both council member Kallos the other elected officials about this at the time the  community board as well.”

There was no press conferance and there was no coverage.  At the time of the collapse a single individual from the Parks Department spoke to individual media at the site and addressed questions.  The use of the park as a staging area was never brought up. This also directly contradicts what his colleague said had just stated moments earlier about how the plan had recently changed a few weeks earlier which caused the new plan to be rushed.

The veracity of Mr. Castro’s claims were challenged. 

He was informed that earlier in the day Council Member’s office told this author that they had not heard of the city’s plan and that at this point it was only a rumor they heard from community members.

When pressed on whether or not the Council member knew a few weeks earlier Castro backed off the claim made moments earlier.  

“I can’t say whether he knew that or not,” Castro replied. “He may have,” he said adding that he hadn’t said he had.  

After the meeting several CB board members and as well other people who called Council Member Kallos’s office told the same story, that it was just a rumor and it had not been officially confirmed by the city until last night.    

This is not the first time the Parks Department has moved ahead with a plan in Community Board 8 without the community knowing about it and Bill Castro was in the middle.     

In April 2012 the Parks Department was blasted over its handling the controversial tennis concession in the Queensboro Oval Park softball field under the 59th Street Bridge at York Avenue. 

Questions were raised, once again, why the community was only founding out at least four months after the city  had made a secret deal that allowed the concessionaire additional time to operate. The lack of transparency then was particularly inflammatory considering the last time the issue of the extending the tennis concession surfaced in 2010 was when the agency’s revenue division struck a behind closed door deal that allowed the private tennis club on public park to go from seasonal to year-round. 

The Community Board vote came five months after the concessionaire had already signed a contract with Parks. Opponents of the plan charge they had not been properly notified of the proposal.

At Thursday's meeting several questions were also raised regarding why the work site was being accessed through the park instead of from barges on the water which is how major seawall esplanade repair work is normally performed.

Park representatives claimed that was not possible due to logistics.

Sledding is out for at least this winter because the city is using the hill as a staging area to begin fixing long over due sections of the East River Esplanade after a fifty foot section collapsed into the East River behind Grace Mansion in May.   (Photo by: Helaine Eisenberg)   

“I’m a Hill-Hugger,” one young attendee carefully wrote on a home made sign.

One by one community members stepped up to the mic and voiced their concerns.

Residents made it very clear that they were still reeling from Mayor De Blasio’s decision to support the building of a massive Marine Transfer station on 91st St accross the street from the park.  Critics have long pointed out that this is the only one being built in the city in the middle of a park, as well in the middle of a dense residential community. That facility is expected to begin operation in 2018. 

The hill is located in northern part of the park on East End Avenue between  90/91st Street,  few feet away from the Mayor’s official residence. 

During the cold months the west facing side of the hill transforms into a winter wonder land with children of all ages hurriedly making thier way down the snow covered grass.  

The view from the top looking east offers panoramic views of the East River and the Tri-Borough bridge, inspiring both day and night.  During the growing season a small community garden provides  a needed respite from the tens of thousands of cars daily that traverse on the FDR Drive located directly under the hill.

“My husband and I for all the years we’ve lived here have used that particular hill as a place to picnic and read on the weekends,” Helaine Eisenberg, who has lived around the corner from the park for 30 years said afterwards. 

“We used to joke that that was our summer house. We’ve found that to be an extremely peaceful, beautiful place to sit because you can see the river from the top of the hill,  and the gardens that volunteers have put together are so lovely. We see it as a peaceful beautiful place that we want to preserve.”

What A mess.

Construction fencing was erected this week around the popular hill located on the north end of Carl Schurz Park. 

(Photos: NYC Park Adovcates) Click on images to enlarge.

Read More:

East River Seawall Collapses Near Gracie Mansion After Deferred Maintenance
A Walk In The Park - May  9, 2017 - By Geoffrey Croft

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Toxic Algal Blooms Found In Park Water Bodies

Harmful algal toxic blooms have so far been discovered in four of the five boroughs. Algae Bloom Advisory signs were recently posted in around several water bodies including the Lake in Central Park and the Prospect Park Lake where high level of toxins were recently confirmed.


By Geoffrey Croft

The city is advising parents and dog owners to avoid contact with several water bodies due to the discovery of cyanobacteria, a blue-green like algae which can be toxic. 

Cyanobacteria has been detected in several ponds including the Lake in Central Park and Prospect Park Lake were high level of toxins were confirmed.  

The blooms were also detected in the Pond in Morningside Park in Manhattan,  in Queens at Kissena Park Lake and Bowne Park Pond,  and in Allison Pond Park in Staten Island. 

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) tracks the presence of Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) on its notifications page which it updates weekly.  

Blooms can be toxic and children and pets are more vulnerable to its effects.  Effects include:

  • Skin and eye irritation from external contact.
  • Asthma-like symptoms from inhaling water/spray.
  • Gastro-intestinal and neurological symptoms from ingestion. 

If a child or pet is exposed rinse the exposed areas with clean water the City advises.  Seek medical attention if you experience skin, eye, throat irritation or breathing difficulties, and if nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, headache, or fever occur.

When enjoying fresh water features in city parks the public is being advised to try to avoid contact with any algae and observe the following guidelines: 
  • Do not drink the water from these lakes or ponds.
  • Do not swim or wade in any of our lakes or ponds.
  • Watch children at all times near the shoreline and do not allow them to enter or drink from lakes and ponds.
  • Keep pets on leashes and do not allow them to enter or drink from lakes and ponds unless in areas specifically designated for such activities.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Proposel To Name Baskeball Courts After Criminal Christopher Wallace Drawing Critics


By Geoffrey Croft

A Brooklyn City Council member who lives in the building where criminal Christopher Wallace, aka the Notorious B.I.G. grew up is proposing to name baskeball courts in a nearby playground in his honor.

Councilman Robert Cornegy (D–Bedford-Stuyvesant) proposed the tribute-naming at Crispus Attucks Playground in Clinton Hill at a community board meeting June 23. 
Wallace was arrested seven times from 1989 to 1996 for weapons possession, cocaine dealing, assault and violating probation. 

The 24-year-old rap personality was shot four times and killed in a drive-by shooting in L.A. on March 9, 1997. His murder officially remains unsolved. 

Critics are trying to block the court naming.

“He’s an inappropriate role model for kids,” local Lucy Koteen, 68, told the NY Post. 

“Somebody who was regularly arrested for selling drugs and carrying illegal guns and rapped about being misogynistic to women, shouldn’t be celebrated.”  

Koteen handed out printed profanity-laced lyrics of the rap artist’s 1994 hit tune “Juicy” at the board meeting to make a point.  “I said ‘Who will read this out loud?’” Koteen, 68, recounted. 

“And of course there were no takers.”  

 “I don’t like what he represents,” said Barnett. “He spreads stupid ideas like gang violence and drugs. Name it after Michael Jordan, or someone good who everyone likes.”  Christopher Wallace, aka the Notorious B.I.G., grew up just a few blocks away from the basketball courts — on St. James Place in the same apartment building as Cornegy.

“Part of this is very personal,” Robert Cornegy told the paper. 

“I made his mom a promise that I would do everything I could in my power to help honor his legacy. 

 “It’s not about the lyrics,” said Cornegy. “It’s about his legacy … commitment and artistic contributions to the hip-hop music genre and the industry itself.”  

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the rap icon’s death. 

The proposal was passed by Community Board 2’s Executive Committee Monday and now faces a City Council vote. 

“I expect it to be passed with no problems,” said Cornegy.

"I said, 'why can't we co name the park after a positive model for young people like Shirley Chisham or one of the great female basketball players.  Lucy Koteen told A Walk In The Park who says she got some applause for that.

"Why do we have to keep coming back to someone who was a thug, sold drugs and was a misogynist. We need to consider what models we are holding up to our young people," she said. 

Read More:

New York Post - July 1, 2017 - By Melkorka Licea