Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Crime Explodes In Union Square Park Area

On Sunday a police officer walked through an area some law enforcement officials have dubbed Methadone Alley. The section is a bench-lined path located on the East Side of Union Square Park. The heavily used park is in close proximity to numerous methadone clinics. Police have made 182 arrests in the park and surrounding area from April 1 - May 9th alone. (Photos: © Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates.) Click on images to enlarge.


By Geoffrey Croft

Crime in Union Square Park and the surrounding area has exploded.

Police have made 182 arrests in the park and vicinity from April 1- May 9th alone according to information obtained by NYC Park Advocates. Since January the NYPD have made 84 narcotic arrests in the 6 acre park according to an NYPD spokesperson. Most of the drug related incidents have occurred on the Park's East path - aka Methadone Alley.

Drug addicts being treated in the area's numerous methadone clinics have been overdosing and committing crimes. Incidents range from violent to drug and alcohol offenses.

Police have responded by stepping up enforcement in the park and surrounding area to include 24 hour coverage. They have assigned special teams of patrols including undercover operations and are conducting sweeps of the park. Crime has increased so much the local BID now pays for a detail of off duty NYPD officers during week and two on Friday's. They also pay for two dedicated Park Enforcement Officers in addition to their own security which patrol the park.

Park Enforcement Patrol (PEP) issued 71 summons in April and 35 through May 14th. Summons have been issued mostly for possession/consumption of alcohol (25 for alcohol in May)- and unattended belongings/storage (homeless items). They have also made arrests for drug offenses and for assault.

The city held a meeting inside the Children's Pavilion on the North end of the park on May 10th to address the issue. More than a dozen city officials attended including representatives from the NYPD, the DA's office, Homeless Services, the Parks Department and the Union Square Partnership. The hour and a half meeting concluded with a tour of the park.

Forty minutes before the meeting a 47-year old known methadone user was arrested in the park for punching a person in the face.

One plan discussed by the DA's office at the meeting was to try to make a deal with the area's methadone clinics to get them to adopt a policy whereby if their clients get arrested they will no longer be welcomed at the clinic, said sources who requested anonymity.

Another idea to combat the condition is for officers to write more criminal court summons in order to do warrant checks.

"It's very dangerous out there," Loni Flete said last week with her five-year-old daughter inside Evelyn's Playground. "It's the same people. I know because they wear the same clothes. Whatever clinic is helping the drug addicts, it's causing them to spill into the park. I do hate to see this park go down hill. It's a good park."

She said she's called the police twice in the last month to break up a fight.

"It's a little shady at times. The language they use and sometimes they try to talk to the kids. I would prefer they not," said Jenn Murphy, 29, a teacher at a nearby private school with kids inside Evelyn's Playground. "The knowledge of what's going on and walking with the kids, it's pretty gross. I usually try to avoid that side."

"It's normal, people doing drugs and drinking," said Steven Roux, 23, of Fort Greene, Brooklyn, sitting near "Methadone Alley" with a friend. "Somebody just threw up behind us. We were wondering why all the police. Usually there are cops but not this many.

"The Precinct Conditions team patrol the area 24 hours a day," the NYPD said in a statement. "As a result of the quality of life complaints in and around Union Square Park, the Commanding Officer of the 13th Precinct has assigned an officer to the park daily during the hours of 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. The Precinct Conditions team patrol the area 24 hours a day. This security is augmented by a Paid Detail officer from noon to 8:00 pm. An additional Paid Detail officer is assigned on Fridays during the evening hours until the park is closed."

"NYPD and Park Enforcement have made a tremendous difference but we need a lot more resources," said a city source.

"There are ambulances down here a few times a week, sometimes a couple times a day," a law enforcement official said. "Its crazy. Its a city within a city."

A Park Enforcement Patrol (PEP) officer issues a summons for illegal possession/consumption of alcohol on Sunday along Methadone Alley. In the background a frequent visitor to that section of the park attempts to wake up a passed out drug user. So far in May PEP have issued 42 summons, mostly for possession/consumption of alcohol (27), and unattended belongings/storage (homeless items). PEP issued 71 summons in April.

Incidents Include:

March 15, 2011
A 41-year old male was found unconscious on a bench from a drug overdose. He was transported unconscious but breathing by EMS to Beth Israel Hospital.

March 19, 2011
East Path approx. E. 16th St and Union Square East - A white female approximately 35-45 years old goes by the name of “Charlene” was found unconscious and not breathing on the ground on the East Path. EMS responded to Union Square Park (E. 16th & Union Sq. West) She suffered from a fatal drug overdose. The woman was found on the floor next to a bench that she had fallen off. She was transported to Bellevue Hospital. The woman had a 6-year old daughter who was not at the scene.

March 29, 2011
Union Square East and E 15th St - White male approx. 30 years old overdosed and conscious was transported by EMS to Beth Israel Medical Center.

Evelyn Playground inside USP. 13 -year-old boy advised unknown person stole his ipad from his unattended nap sack. NYPD arrived and advised the child to have his parents come in to the 13th PCT to file a report.

March 30, 2011

East Path approx East 15th st. - Black female was found breathing but unconscious transported by EMS to Beth Israel.

April 2, 2011
East Path - 2 summons for possession/consumption of alcohol.

April 4, 2011

East Path - 2 Summons issued for possession/consumption of alcohol.

April 10, 2011
East Path 15th St. - White male advised he was dizzy and about to pass out. Further advised he drinks alcohol and takes paxil and xanex. When EMS arrived he refused to be transported to the hospital.

April 11, 2011
3 Summons issued for possession/consumption of alcohol.

April 21, 2011
East Path 15th Street - Black female goes by the name of Linda approx 49 years old complained of spitting up blood for four days. She was transported by EMS to Beth Israel Medical.

April 22, 2011
A 28 year-old male was stabbed 3 times by a knife-wielding 50-year-old man screaming racial slurs inside the Park on the North End of the Park at approx. 16th St. NYPD was notified and canvassed the area with negative results. The victim survived and the attack is being investigated as a possible hate crime. Victim says he can identify the perpetrator from hanging out in the park.

April 28, 2011
East Path - White male approx. 45 complains of being dizzy, light headed and had an open wound on his lower right leg that was bleeding. He was transported by EMS to Beth Israel Medical Center

West Path- White male complains of having a heart attack and he had no feeling in his right arm. He appeared to be intoxicated. He was transported by EMS to NYU Hospital.

April 29, 2011
NYPD Sweep - Police arrest 11 people for various drug offenses.

East Path - White male (same person from April 28th 2:30pm) complained of right lower leg pain and was bleeding excessively from wound. He was transported by EMS to Beth Israel Medical Center.

May 5, 2011

Union Square West - White male (same individual from April 28 and April 29) complained of right lower leg pain. He appeared to be disoriented and intoxicated. He was transported by EMS to NYU Hospital.

May 7, 2011
Approximately 5:00pm - Two known methadone users had an argument and a 41 year old male was punched in the face by another male. NYPD arrested the man for disorderly behavior and assault. The victim refused medical attention and refused to press charges.

May 8, 2011
Women's Bathroom - NYPD and PEP received numerous complaints about a male exposing himself in the woman's bathroom. On Sunday between 9:30 -10:00am NYPD caught the man in a stall with his pants down. NYPD issued a Criminal Court Summons for trespassing. The male is an employee of the Union Square Partnership.

May 9, 2011
6 Summons issued for possession/consumption of alcohol

May 10
12:20pm. East Path - Onor Hakan, 47, was arrest by PEP for punching a 44-year-old male in the face. The perpetrator was arrested for Assault 3 and Harassment in the Second Degree. Mr. Hakan has been issued multiple summons by PEP for infractions in the park over the last six weeks.

4 summons were issued to various people for possession/consumption of alcohol. Three were issued in front of the Playground.

May 11, 2011

Arrest for possession of a controlled substance at 11:20am. Felony arrest: A 56-year-old was arrested by PEP for possession of a controlled substance. The perpetrator was processed at the 13th Precinct; the male was later transported from Central Booking to Bellevue Hospital for a psych evaluation. He was charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree, criminal possession of a controlled substance in the fifth degree and criminal possession of marijuana in the fifth degree. Mushrooms, and marijuana (between 2 and 4 ounces).

May 13

A 51- year old Union Square Partnership employee was assaulted a group of teens on Friday night at 9:00pm while cleaning. He was hit in the face with a medal dust pan and was bleeding from his mouth. He was attacked while working in the circle in the South Plaza behind the George Washington statue. A group of three teens, The worker went to Harlem Hospital where he received medical attention.

NYPD have stepped up their presents in Union Square Park after a dramatic rise in crime.

Park Enforcement Patrol (PEP) Summons

April - 71
May - 42 (through May 17)
Summons issued mostly for possession/consumption of alcohol, unattended belongings/storage. (homeless items)
27 for alcohol.

Read/View More:

New York Post - May 16, 2011 - By John Doyle

Fox NY - May 16, 2011- By Diana Rocco

NY Magazine - May 16, 2011 - By Chris Rovzar


  1. Park Enforcement OfficerMay 18, 2011 at 7:54 AM

    This goes to show you that Rebecca Ferguson, Park Administrator, is "Queen of the Skid Parks" and needs to be replaced immediately! Both Union and Washington Square Parks have always had a major problem with drug addicts, mentally ill, and homeless people. However, she preferred to pretend that those conditions didn't exist and harass the PEP administration to assign PEP officers to her parks that could quietly deal with and remove undesirable park patrons of her own choosing. She has personally asked PEP officers to racial profile and selectively enforce park rules and regulations. She must be held accountable for the dangerous conditions that were allowed to exist in her parks under her watch.

  2. This also shows how under staffed we are. If we had more personnel we would be able to go into those parks full force and clean them up, but we go in there with a skeleton crew and although the officers do what they can and are great at it, they need the help.

  3. Maybe if the Parks Commissioner Adrian Wannabe treated the officers with a modicum of respect, instead of referring to them as "parkies", they might garner respect from others as well.