Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Police Arrest Homeless Man Wanted For Exposing Himself To Kids/Parents In Upper Manhattan Playgrounds

Francisco Santana, 55,  pushing a wheelchair along Ft. Washington Ave. & 176th Street before his arrest on Friday on multiple counts.  He has been arrested more than twenty times since 1995  including for public lewdness and burglary according to the police. 


By Geoffrey Croft

Police have arrested one person and interviewed another wanted last week for questioning in connection with reports of strangers approaching children and asking them personal questions, and in some cases taking their pictures in upper Manhattan parks NYC Park Advocates has learned.  

One of the "creeps," allegedly  "seen pleasuring himself next to a breast feeding mother,"  who pushes an empty wheel chair and exposes himself in playgrounds was arrested.  

On Friday afternoon police apprehended Francisco Santana, 55, steeming from three incidents from July 21st to October 31st.

According to the complaint Santana was seen masturbating on a park bench inside J. Hood Wright Park in July and August.  He was charged with two counts of  Public Lewdness. 

In October he was observed masturbating in Bennett Park in front of a child under two years of age and in front of approximately eight other children under the age of thirteen. He was charged with Endangering the Welfare of a Child,  Public Lewdness and Exposure of a Person.

He has been arrested more than twenty times since 1995 according to the police.

Charges include numerous burglary charges.  He was also arrested for public lewdness in 2005.  

Santana lives in a homeless shelter on Wards Island and sources say he may also be a client at the Fort Washington Avenue Armory homeless shelter a few blocks from J. Hood Wright Park. 

Parents in Washington Heights and Inwood sounded the alarm recently and took to social media and parent list serves posting stories and warnings of the behavior of these two men.

At a community meeting on Wednesday the 34th Pct.  Inspector stressed the importance of the public to contact the precinct directly if they had any experience or had any info about these individuals.

On Friday a detective from the 34th Pct. Community Affairs sent out an email asking for the public's help.

"Anyone with specific information regarding the gentleman with a wheelchair acting inappropriately in the park,  please contact the 34th Precinct as soon as possible." 

Police responded quickly after receiving several complaints and tips from parents including photos of Mr. Santana pushing a wheelchair.  Within hours he was in custody.

Police from the 33 pct. working in connection with the 34 pct. apprehended Santana  at 173rd Street & Ft .Washington Avenue near J. Hood Wright Park after he was identified by a caretaker in the park.

Parents say he has also been seen in Javits Playground in Fort Tryon Park. 

"Whomever is at the park right now should clearly stay away but also contact the police immediately," one mom posted on November 18th.

"This man came up to my sitter a few weeks ago while she was with my son at Javits (playground).  He was pushing the wheelchair all the while, his genitals were completely exposed.

He must be locked up! "

Another wrote:

"Watch out for a Hispanic male with a ponytail that comes to the playgrounds with a wheelchair,  but no child. He was seen pleasuring himself next to a breast feeding mother. Police were called,  but he took off toward Haven Avenue. Please be on the lookout for him around other playgrounds and call the police. "

Another wrote:

"He's at j hood right now,  on a bench by the dog park,  in case anyone cares to avoid that spot for a while."

Once concerned resident took photos which helped police id the man.

Francisco Santana, 55,  pushing a wheelchair along Ft. Washington Ave.

"I was incredibly elated and relieved to learn of the arrest,"  one parent told A Walk In The Park upon hearing the news.

"When I first learned of what this man was doing,  I became very concerned but when I learned he had actually been in close proximity to my own child and his caretaker,  I went crazy. I refused to have either one of my boys go to the parks until I knew the perpetrator had been caught.

Thankfully,  through community awareness and activism,  this monster is off the streets!" 

His incarceration was short-lived.

Santana was arraigned on both cases on Saturday. The DA's office requested $7,500 bail for the incident that occurred on October and $5,000 bail for the one in July. The Judge however released Santana on his own recognizance without requiring bail.    

Santana’s next court date for both cases is Decembr 19th. 

One area resident person posted a warning, noting he was released without bail,  "Just in case anyone saw him around the neighborhood and was concerned why he was out.) It is recommended to call 911 if you see this person acting inappropriately and to be specific with the 911 operator that this person has a history of this with open charges filed against him for these acts." 

Police also caught up with a second man wanted for questioning in separate incidents in Isham Park after receiving several complaints from concerned parents and caretakers. 
In those instances the man asked personal questions of two 4-5 year old girls including their names and where they lived, he also took photographs. 

On one occasion the man followed a family home out of the park and took photos of  a little girl along the way and refused to stop even when the caretaker explicitly asked him not to.  She ended up screaming at him to make him go away.

"This guy gave the sitter the 'creeps', so she took the kids and quickly left the park. No one else was around, " one writer posted. 

Police paid him a visit over the weekend at his Park Terrace East apt but no charges were filed. 

A source says he is in the process of moving out of state. 

This comes so the heels of a terrifying incident on Friday when a jogger escaped a would-be rapist in Fort Tryon Park in broad daylight.  Police sources say the woman was running between Ft. Tryon Park and the Cloisters around noon when she was approached by a man who came out of the woods.

"You know what you want," the assailant said in a strong Spanish accent according to a law enforcement source.  He grabbed the jogger from behind and put her in a bear hug.  The victim was able to broke free and ran home and called the police. 

She did not get a look at the assailant.

These incidents have once again raised concerns in upper Manhattan parks where members of the public have been pressing for funding for increased security including dedicated PEP officers. 

The 34 has more parkland than any other precinct other than Central Park and currently has 3 "park portables"  - dedicated police officers deployed to parks that are providing coverage seven days a week.

1,500 Acres Of Freshkills Park To Be Mapped - 47 acres To Be Leased For Solar Power Station

The mapping of Freshkills Park would bring City total to 30,000 acres of parkland  giving Staten Island the highest parkland acreage of the five boroughs, at 8,822 acres, representing 28 percent of the City’s parkland. State-of-the-art solar power station at Freshkills Park will produce enough energy to power more than 2,000 Homes – increasing City’s Renewable Energy Capacity by Half according to the City.  

Staten Island

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Parks Commissioner Veronica M. White, Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty and Director of the Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability Sergej Mahnovski today announced the largest solar energy installation in New York City will be installed at Freshkills Parks on Staten Island. 
Approximately 47 acres of land will be leased to SunEdison, which was selected through a public bidding process to design, construct, install and operate a solar power facility with the potential to generate up to 10 megawatts of power – five times more than any solar energy system in the city and enough to power approximately 2,000 homes, according to a press release from the Mayor's office. 
The solar power system will be an integral part of the Freshkills Park, and will increase the City’s current renewable energy capacity by 50 percent. Fostering the market for renewable energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions are two key initiatives of PlaNYC, the City’s long-term sustainability blueprint. 
This announcement is the latest in a series of solar initiatives the city has launched in recent years including significantly scaling up use of solar energy at City-owned sites and developing the NYC Solar Map, a web-based tool that estimates the feasibility of installing solar panels on any of the 1 million New York City buildings. The Administration is moving forward with steps to officially map an additional 1,500 acres of Freshkills into parkland, officially bringing the total for Freshkills Park to 2,200 acres and bringing total parkland in New York City to more than 30,000 acres for the first time in history. 
The Mayor made the announcement at Freshkills Park where he was joined by Borough President James Molinaro, Assembly Member Michael Cusik, Assembly Member Matthew Titone and Atilla Toth, General Manager for SunEdison, for the announcement.
“Freshkills was once the site of the largest landfill in the world. Soon it will be one of the City’s largest parks, and the site of the largest solar power installation ever developed within the five boroughs,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “Over the last twelve years we’ve restored wetlands and vegetation and opened new parks and soccer fields at the edges of the site. Thanks to the agreement today we will increase the amount of solar energy produced in New York City by 50 percent and it is only fitting that Freshkills, once a daily dumping ground, will become a showcase urban renewal and sustainability.”
“Developing solar energy on Freshkills Park shows that large-scale renewable energy projects are possible in New York City, but this is only a first step,” said Deputy Mayor for Operations Cas Holloway. “If we are serious about meeting New York City’s tremendous energy needs from renewable sources we need the State and federal governments, as well as our utility partners and others in the private sector, to work with us to make solar and other renewable energies easier to develop, install, and access the energy grid.”
The Department of Parks and Recreation intends to file next month the application to the Department of City Planning to formally map an additional 1,500 acres of the Freshkills site as parkland. Currently mapped for a variety of uses and under different jurisdictions, this application will include a provision for specific sites at Freshkills to develop renewable energy. The move will expedite and streamline the administrative process to build the Freshkills solar facility as a model of this Administration's commitment to long-range sustainability practices. This application represents hard work years in the making, highlighting the City's commitment to parks and sustainability, alongside the elected officials and local leadership here in Staten Island.
In addition, once the application process is complete and with the area designated as parkland, the added land at Freshkills will put the City at over 30,000 acres of parkland - a size greater than the entire city of San Francisco. Specific to the ‘Borough of Parks,’ the mapping would give Staten Island the highest parkland acreage of the five boroughs, at 8,822 acres, representing 28 percent of the City’s parkland. In all, the City has added 871 acres of parkland since 2001.
“Freshkills Park is transforming into one of New York City’s most significant regional parks of the 21st century and, thanks to Mayor Bloomberg's vision, we are putting it on the map as a model for clean and renewable energy,” said Parks and Recreation Commissioner Veronica White. “When you visit Freshkills Park today, it’s hard to imagine it was ever a landfill. Thanks to the leadership of former Borough President Guy Molinari, Borough President James Molinaro, a joint effort by Staten Island's elected officials, and brilliant engineering by the Sanitation Department, it is one of the best examples of land reclamation in the world. This Administration’s dedication to parks can be summed up no better than with this effort that aims to give New York City, for the first time in its history, over 30,000 acres of parkland.”
“The goal of having a cleaner energy supply in New York City has always required projects as bold as the vision itself. This unprecedented solar project will be the largest in New York City and will help us understand how renewables can integrate into our energy networks at a much greater scale, and sends a signal to the market place that renewable energy is both achievable within the city, and that it will continue to grow and become a major component of New York City’s energy supply,” said Sergej Mahnovski, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability. “This project will also push existing regulations to their boundaries. Interconnection with the utility system will have to be clarified, State programs aimed at increasing renewable energy will have to be expanded, and landfill post-closure care will have to be rewritten; and these are only a few of the challenges ahead. But this is a necessary undertaking in order to shift our power sector to a cleaner, more reliable energy future.”
“I am pleased to announce that the City has entered into an exclusive negotiation agreement with SunEdison,” said DSNY Commissioner Doherty. “SunEdison has done many comparable installations at other closed landfills in the northeast. This will be the first of its kind in NYC. The designs will take into account that during the installation and operation of the solar panels, the city (DSNY) will continue its post-closure monitoring and maintenance obligations, which are mandated by a Consent Order with the state. In addition, the East Site, where we are standing now, will about the future Freshkills Park.”
"Promoting solar energy is a critical component of our goal to make New York City more sustainable and resilient over the long term,” said New York City Economic Development Corporation President Kyle Kimball. “With today’s announcement, this Administration is, once again, reactivating underutilized land in an innovative way that will help the City thrive for years to come.”
“SunEdison applauds New York City’s innovative approach to environmental sustainability,” said Attila Toth, SunEdison’s General Manager. “The solar systems we intend to build at Freshkills Park will be tangible proof of the Mayor’s commitment to renewable energy, and will serve as a model of public private partnerships by providing economic benefit to both the city and businesses located within the five boroughs.”
Today’s announcement builds on the work the City has already done to cultivate more renewable energy. In April, the City entered into an innovative third-party ownership agreement to install almost 2 megawatts of solar energy on four City-owned buildings including the Port Richmond Waste Water Treatment Plant, two Bronx High Schools, and the Staten Island Ferry Maintenance Building. Almost 700 kilowatts already exist on City-owned buildings such as police precincts, park buildings and firehouses.
In addition to bringing renewable electricity to New York City, solar power will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and local pollutants. During the hottest summer days, demand for electricity forces the activation of inefficient in-city “peaker” plants, some of which burn heavy fuel oil. The solar and wind facilities at Freshkills will reduce the need for peak electricity generation at these facilities, and help to meet the PlaNYC goal of a 30-percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
“I am pleased to see one of the objectives I proposed at the beginning of my administration finally come to fruition. The development of environmentally-friendly green energy sources at Freshkills promises a future in stark contrast from the days when Freshkills was an environmental nightmare,” Borough President James P. Molinaro said. “I commend Mayor Bloomberg and Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway for their perseverance and commitment to this project.”
"I am thrilled that this idea we had, to turn the environmental nightmare of Fresh Kills Landfill into an environmental dream that will be Fresh Kills Park and Renewable Energy Fields, has finally become a reality,” staid State Senator Diane Savino. “I thank Mayor Bloomberg for taking this concept and having his team at Parks run with it."
“This announcement signifies a turn for Freshkills Park as a site that represents clean and renewable energy,” said Assembly Member Michael Cusik. “This is the perfect symbol of Freshkills moving from the designation of an environmental nightmare when it was a landfill to a site responsible for renewable energy. I applaud the Mayor and the PlaNYC initiatives for including the Freshkills Park site as a location for a solar power facility.”
“I applaud the multi-use purpose of Freshkills Park where we not only return it to nature but incorporate public use, education, and a commitment to clean, renewable energy,” said Assembly Member Matthew Titone. “We need electricity, we need open space, and we need clean air, and we can have all three.”
“Con Edison has been working with many of its customers who choose to install solar systems for their homes and businesses,” said Con Edison President Craig Ivey. “We commend Mayor Bloomberg for his leadership on the Fresh Kills project, which will increase the amount of solar generation in New York, promoting cleaner air and a more reliable electrical grid.”
“Not long ago, few could have imagined that Freshkills would be transformed into a park, let alone into a clean-energy facility,” said Marcia Bystryn, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters. “This is one of the most exciting clean-energy projects in development in the entire city, and it will serve as a powerful symbol of the environmental renaissance now underway on Staten Island. We applaud Mayor Bloomberg for this important accomplishment, and for making environmental sustainability one of the hallmarks of his administration.”
"At Fresh Kills, a mountain of trash is becoming an oasis of green, with room for parks, wildlife and renewable energy," said Andy Darrell, Regional Director and Chief of Strategy for Energy at the Environmental Defense Fund. "The price of solar panels is at historic lows, and it's innovation like this that can help make the benefits of solar power available to more New Yorkers."
Freshkills spans 2,200 acres on the western shore of Staten Island and served as the City’s principal solid waste landfill until 2001. In 2006, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation began working to develop Freshkills Park, which will incorporate the solar and wind power installations. The use of capped municipal landfills to develop renewable energy facilities was outlined in PlaNYC, Mayor Bloomberg’s unprecedented program to prepare the City for more residents, strengthen the economy, combat climate change, and enhance the quality of life for all New Yorkers.
Read More:
Press Release - November 25, 2013

Monday, November 25, 2013

McCarren Park Ice Skating Rink Opens - For Now

NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpi
More than 5,000 skaters have laced up their blades in the highly anticipated McCarren Park Ice Skating Rink   since it opened nine days ago, it remains unclear how how long it will stay open.  Instead of running the facility themselves the city is relying on a so called "public/private partner."  (Photo: Debbie Egan -Chin/New York Daily News ) 


More than 5,000 skaters have taken a glide at the shiny new McCarren Park ice skating rink, but its chances of staying open much beyond the holidays remain on thin ice, according to the New York Daily News. 

The highly anticipated, 60-foot-wide rink in the middle of the newly renovated pool opened nine days ago. 

“It’s been great,” said Ed Janoff, executive director of Open Space Alliance for North Brooklyn, which runs the rink in the Greenpoint park.

 But, he added, it’s still too early to decide whether there will be enough traffic to keep the rink open past early January. 

Last year, the Alliance beat out one other unnamed group that pursued the contract to run the rink, according to the city Parks Department. 

Under a 12-year deal, the Alliance will pay the city $1,000 the first year, $2,000 the second year and $3,000 the third year. The payments increase to $17,000 in the 12th year or 10% of gross receipts, if that sum is greater.  

 Temperatures dipped to the 20s on Sunday, but that didn’t seem to keep people away.
  (Photo: Debbie Egan -Chin/New York Daily News ) 

The opening earlier this month was even welcomed by Geoffrey Croft, the city’s most vocal gadfly on any parks-related matter. 

“New York City has so few ice skating rinks and North Brooklyn definitely needs one,” said Croft, head of NYC Park Advocates.

 The oft-quoted Parks Department critic noted that the rink’s 7,200 square feet of skating area — it can accommodate up to 300 skaters — is on the small side.

 “But,” he said, “I think it will be a welcome addition to the neighborhood.”  

Indeed, North Brooklyn has been quick to lace up its skates. 

 “A lot of kids go to school in this area so the ice skating rink is ideal," said Victoria Palosinski, 13, who zoomed around with some of her school friends Sunday.

 "Sure Central Park is bigger, but the lines are no longer there too. There is no wait here.” 

As for McCarren, the pool re-opened last year for the first time since 1984, following $50 million in renovations. Residents scotched an earlier plan to repair it, complaining that it was attracting hoodlums and other unsavory types. 

More than 5,000 skaters have taken a glide at the shiny new McCarren Park ice skating rink
There  are several proposel to turn pools into ice-skating rinks during the winter months.
For several summers, McCarren served as a hot summer venue for concerts and other hipster gatherings, and the problems returned last summer, when officials reported a spate of arrests during an early July heatwave. 

Turning pools into ice-skating rinks during the winter months is becoming the coolest thing since the automatic ice maker. 

The city plans to install a skating rink on the kiddie pool in Highbridge Park, in Washington Heights, and a Queens lawmaker suggested last week that putting the freeze on the Astoria Park pool would be a most welcomed addition. 

Williamsburg resident Patricia Grecco, 32, said she would usually trek to Long Island City or Central Park to skate two with her sons, Leo, 3, and Jase, 2. 

"Brooklyn is just a way cooler spot to go ice skating,” she said.

 “I’m freezing, but it is awesome for the kids.” 

Brooklyn has two operational indoor rinks, and one on its way. They are the Aviator Field, in Mill Basin, and Coney Island’s Abe Stark Rink. 

A shiny new outdoor rink in Prospect Park is scheduled to re-open next month after $74 million in repairs. 

The rink is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. Admission costs $8 for adults, $5 for students and $4 for kids. Skates cost $5 a pair. Visit www.nycgovparks.org/facilities/iceskating/12   

Read More:

New York Daily News -  November 25, 2013  - By Tanay  Warerkar And Reuven Blau 

Parks Department Does Not Fire Convicted Killer After Sexually Abusing Worker In 2009

“It’s horrible. He can do whatever he wants to do and not even [get] a slap on the wrist? He gets to do the same thing? Really?” - Victim

Parks Department continues to keep convicted killer perv on the job
Still on The Job. Despite his 2009 conviction for sexually abusing a Brooklyn woman doing community service in a park,  APSW maintenance worker Michael Palamar is still employed as a supervisor at Tompkins Square Park.   The city is being sued by the victim over the incident. (The woman worked in parks for just ten days) Shockingly,  lawyers defending the city in the lawsuit over that incident could not say in open court whether Palamar was still on the payroll or not, according to the victim’s lawyer.  (Photo: R. Umar Abbasi)

In 1982, a 17-year-old Palamar broke into the Rosedale, Queens, home of his next-door neighbor, 83-year-old Morris Rosenhaft and bludgeoned him to death with a bat during a botched burglary.  He pleaded guilty to manslaughter and served 16 years of a 25-year sentence before being paroled in 1999. He was back behind bars in 2001, pleading guilty in Manhattan to petit larceny and possession of stolen property. 

After these convictions Palamar was able to get a job with the Parks Department. During his employment he has had numerous work issues including failing to report accidents in city vehicles he drove, not safeguarding equipment, and lying about finishing an assignment, according to Parks Department records. 

The issue is compounded because for years the City's elected officials have refused to allocate proper resources for the Parks Department so the agency has relied on hiring personnel with questionable backgrounds.   

And what exactly might cause the Parks Department not to hire a perspective employee? An agency spokesperson said last year that as long as the applicant "didn't exhibit anti-social or disruptive behavior during the hiring process we would decline to hire that person.”

Asleep at The Wheel. Incredibly the Parks Department said last week it is still “reviewing” Palamar’s 2009 conviction. 

- Geoffrey Croft


How does this killer get a pass — and a city paycheck?
The city knowingly hired a deadly ex-con to patrol its parks, and again looked the other way when he groped a co-worker four years ago, The Post has learned.
Michael Palamar, 49, continues to collect his taxpayer-funded $56,988 annual salary as a maintenance worker in Tompkins Square Park, where The Post found him last week.
More than a year after The Post exposed the city Parks Department’s penchant for hiring people with unsavory criminal backgrounds, it’s clear the agency hasn’t learned its lesson.
Palamar had a body count before he was old enough to vote. He bludgeoned an elderly neighbor to death with a bat during a botched burglary when he was 17.
Despite his manslaughter conviction, Palamar landed a job in park maintenance in 2006. His bad behavior quickly returned — with him failing to report accidents in city vehicles he drove, not safeguarding equipment, and lying about finishing an assignment, according to Parks Department records obtained by The Post.
And he kept his job even after pleading guilty in March 2009 to sexually abusing a Brooklyn woman doing community service in Cooper Square.
The system is “thoroughly broken,” parks advocate Geoffrey Croft said. “How in God’s creation was this guy hired, and how is he able to keep his job?”
Incredibly, The Parks Department said last week it is still “reviewing” Palamar’s 2009 conviction.
And shockingly, lawyers defending the city in a lawsuit over that incident could not say in open court whether Palamar was still on the payrollor not, according to the victim’s lawyer.
“They did absolutely nothing to him. They did zero,” said the victim’s lawyer, Niall MacGiollabhui. “It’s insult upon injury.”
It’s not the first time the Parks Department has hired criminals only to see them return to their law-breaking ways.
Robert Swann was charged with murder for allegedly stabbing a co-worker at a Queens recreation center in September 2012 after the two argued over a garbage bag. Swann got the job despite previous gun and theft charges.
“As far as we understand, no changes have been made,” parks advocate Geoffrey Croft said of the agency’s hiring process. “Clearly, where they’re getting their employees is cause for concern.”
In 1982, Palamar, broke into the Rosedale, Queens, home of his next-door neighbor, 83-year-old Morris Rosenhaft, who caught the intruder red-handed. He swung a bat at Palamar, who snatched it and smashed the old man.
Charged with murder, Palamar — who had a prior burglary rap — pleaded guilty to manslaughter. He served 16 years of a 25-year sentence before being paroled in 1999. He was back behind bars in 2001, pleading guilty in Manhattan to petit larceny and possession of stolen property.
In 2009, Palamar, a member of DC37’s Local 983, was on the job when Michelle Fecu of Brooklyn was assigned to do 10 days of community service after a shoplifting arrest.
Fecu, now 31, says the 6-foot-3 ex-con chatted her up, following her in his truck at the end of the workday and offering her rides home. When she reluctantly agreed, he put his arm around her and played with her hair, according to court documents.
An uncomfortable Fecu didn’t initially report the creepy behavior because she “didn’t want to complain, didn’t want them to think I didn’t want to do community service,” she said during a deposition in her 2010 Manhattan Supreme Court case.
But Palamar grabbed her rear on her last day while she cleaned garbage in the park. Fed up, Fecu finally told supervisors. Palamar was arrested and ordered to stay away from her.
Fecu is outraged her groper is still patrolling the city’s public spaces.
“It’s horrible,” she said. “He can do whatever he wants to do and not even [get] a slap on the wrist?” she said. “He gets to do the same thing? Really?”
Confronted by The Post in Tompkins Square Park last week while he unloaded bags of leaves, Palamar declined to comment on the sexual-abuse case or his manslaughter conviction.
“Whether I deserve [the job] or not is irrelevant,” he said. “I took the [civil-service] test, and I passed it just like anybody else.”
Additional reporting by Elizabeth Hagen

Read More:

Parks Department continues to keep convicted killer perv on the job
New York Post -  November 24, 2013 - By Kathianne Boniello  

Dangerous Criminals Being Hired At Parks
A Walk In The Park -  September 30, 2012

Friday, November 22, 2013

Vallone's Park Crime Reporting Bill Comes Under Fire

"It is imperative that the City track crime in all parks and playgrounds not just on properties of one acre or greater.   The City has had enough time to create a system to track and monitor crime it just has not been a priority. "  -  State Senator Tony Avella


The City Council’s Public Safety Committee – chaired by Council Member Peter F. Vallone Jr. – will being holding a hearing this afternoon at 1:00pm on Vallone’s proposed local law requiring the police department to submit to the Council reports of crime in parks. 

However the legislation is deeply flawed as it only require the tracking of crime in parks and playgrounds one acre or greater.

It has been repeatedly pointed out that most playgrounds are less than one acre in size.

As it stands now the bill as introduced would not track crimes in the majority of parks as most crimes do not happen in parks one acre or greater.  The bill also omits incidents that occur in recreation centers and pools.  There is no reason to exclude the tracking and reporting of crime in all parks playgrounds and recreation centers. The language should also include not only the police department but also the parks department as we know THEY do track crime through its communication division but they do not publicly release the data.

The city has had many years to comply with the reporting including the implementation of Vallone's original 2005 bill but the city has been allowed to avoid it.

"It is imperative that the City track crime in all parks and playgrounds not just on properties of one acre or greater., " State Senator Tony Avella said in a statement.

"The legislation I introduced ( S 5911) closes important loopholes that currently exist in the bill sponsored by Council Member Vallone.

My bill would also be enacted within a year.  The City has had enough time to create a system to track and monitor crime it just has not been a priority. " 

"Mr. Vallone's What happens in parks stays in parks  legislation continues to put the lives of the public and our officers in jeopardy by not requiring the city track crimes in park properties including ALL parks and playgrounds,  and recreation centers," said Joe Puleo, president of Local 983 which represents Park Enforcement Patrol officers. 

"We cannot support this legislation as written. We have tried to bring the bill's problems to your attention but our concerns have been ignored. We fully support State Senator Tony Alleva's park crime reporting legislation that actually closes the loopholes and provides an important level  of accountability. "

City Council’s Public Safety Committee – chaired by Council Member Peter F. Vallone Jr. – will being holding a hearing on Vallone’s proposed local law this afternoon at 1:00pm.

WHAT: Public Safety Committee to Hold Hearing on Reporting Crimes in Parks
WHEN: Friday, November 22nd, 1:00 PM
WHERE: 250 Broadway, 16th Floor Hearing Room

Central Park's 3,700 Year-Old Obelisk "Cleopatra's Needle" To Get Make Over

A mechanical arm delivers conservators to the top of the 3,700 year-old,  71-foot high Egyptian Obelisk in Central Park last weekend as park patrons take advantage of the balmy weather.  The iconic 224-ton monument - known as Cleopatra's Needle - will be getting a face lift soon.  This Spring scaffolding will be erected to enable the obelisk to be thoroughly cleaned and to allow conservation treatment of the worn and polluted antiquity. (Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on images to enlarge


By Geoffrey Croft

The 3,700 year-old Egyptian Obelisk in Central Park  - known as Cleopatra's Needle - will soon be getting a make over.  

For the past month conservators have been surveying the iconic 71-foot high,  224-ton obelisk located on the Eastside of Central Park near the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

A conservator brushes a test consolidant on the surface of the red Aswan granite last weekend. Treatments are being tested in order help bind the stone in an effort to prevent further deterioration. For the past month workers have been documenting existing conditions and assessing potential treatment solutions.  Pieces of blue tape (above) mark off the test area being treated near hieroglyphic text, which in some places has completely worn away over the millennia due to several factors. Thousands of years of neglect have contributed to the obelisk's current state.

The monument's deteriorating condition was thrust sharply into the limelight in 2011 when the head of Egypt's antiquities accused the City and the Central Park Conservancy of not properly caring for it and threatened to have it returned to Egypt if conservation issues were not addressed.   Many conservation treatments have been attempted to stabilize the obelisk's deterioration since its installation in the park in 1881, some of which turned out to be less than ideal. 

Workers have been documenting existing conditions and assessing potential treatment solutions.  

Conservators have climbed aboard a boom lift and ascended high above the ground, painstakingly pouring over the massive structure.  

They have tested various methods for cleaning the surface.  

Curious onlookers have stopped to take cell phone photos of the modern mechanical arm juxtaposed against the ancient structure, slowly rising and circling around its four sides.  

Over the weekend workers were seen brushing a consolidant - one of several tested during the survey - onto the worn  surface of the obelisk's red Aswan granite.  Consolidants are treatments used by conservators intended to strengthen weakened stone and slow the rate of surface loss by binding loosened grains.  Ultrasound is then used to test the effectiveness of the various treatments. 

Workers masked off test areas with pieces of blue tape before applying the liquid, and later covered it up. 

The test area was covered after it was treated.

This past summer the area was also closed off and workers were seen surveying the ground near the monument.

A 3D map of the structure has akso been created.

Park patrons will soon see a much more dramatic transformation. This Spring -  if all goes according to plan -  scaffolding will be erected which will enable the obelisk to be thoroughly cleaned and to allow conservation treatment of the worn and polluted antiquity. 

November 24, 2013. Covering up more test area.

Sources say the conservators are leaning towards using laser technology to clean and strip the thousands of years of grime and atmospheric pollution.  The laser vaporizes the dirt without harming the stone and leaves no falling debris. 

The work is part of a conservation proposal project the Central Park Conservancy has been developing for nearly two years in an effort to clean and help preserve the Obelisk. 

"The current and summertime surveys will help inform the development of a final proposal; the work is expected to begin next year, pending City approval," a spokeswoman for the Conservancy, the park's non-profit caretaker said  in a statement. 

"Besides cleaning and stabilizing this historic monument, the project will document the obelisk’s current condition to aid in future study. Until the conservation plan is finalized, we won’t have any additional information on its scope,"  the spokesperson said.

The group declined to reveal the cost of the project, stating it was their policy to announce it once it has been fully developed and finalized -  not piecemeal -  which they say typically occurs when the public review process begins, which we expect to happen in early 2014.

The beautiful monolithic monument commemorating King Thutmose III, was a gift from the Egyptian government.  It was originally erected about 1443 B.C. in Heliopolis, now part of modern Cairo.

Its preservation however has not been ideal over the millennia.  The obelisk sustained extensive damage in 525 BCE when it was toppled and burned by raiding Persians, and it later sat partially submerged in saltwater on the Nile for roughly 500 years before Romans rescued it and re-erected it in Alexandria in 12 BC.

File:ACSIE010 - The Obelisk now in Central Park, New York, as it Stood in Alexandria, Egypt.jpg

The obelisk, aka. Cleopatra's Needle,  as it stood in Alexandria, Egypt. This illustration appeared in A Confederate Soldier in Egypt by William W. Loring, published in 1884.  

After another nearly 2, 000 years,  it was given to the United States and erected again, this time in Central Park. 

Moisture from our North American climate and pollution have taken their toll since the obelisk's arrival here in 1880. 

Misguided conservation efforts have also further contributed to its deterioration over the years. 

Since its arrival in the park many convervation treatments have been attempted to try and stabilze the obelisk, some of which were less than ideal.  

By 1885 an astonishing 780 pounds of the obelisk's surface including surviving hieroglyphs were estimated to have already been infamously scraped off.

Other incidents were also not helpful including a supposed waterproofing treatment.  

Cleopatra's Needle, 1885 wrapped in scaffolding receiving the Robert M. Caffall wax process "waterproofing" treatment less than five years after the obelisk was erected in Central Park.  The Caffall process was also used in other locations in the park at the turn of the century.  Many conservation treatments have been attempted to stabilize the obelisk since its installation in 1880, some of which turned out less than ideal.  (Photo: Metropolitan Museum of Art) 

In 1885  less than five years after the monument was erected in the park - Robert M. Caffall applied his wax process "waterproofing" method.   The obelisk  would be  "permanently preserved from destruction by the weather,"  his son Edward M. Caffall was still claiming twenty-five years after the treatment.  (The Caffall process was also used in other locations in the park at the turn of the century.) 

Apparently researchers at  Metropolitan Museum of Art do not agree.

"Caffall's treatment did nothing to alleviate the underlying cause of deteration, which is the periodic dissolution and recrystallization of soluble salts, "  according to a report from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

"In fact the, his use of hydrophobic materials such as paraffin probably promoted recrystallization and subsequent spalling at the interface of stone and consolidant,"  the article entitled,  The Practice of Objects Conservation in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1870-1942)  concluded.

The monument's current state received a considerable amount of media attention in 2011 when the then secretary general for Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities,  Zahi Hawass,  fired off a letter to Mayor Bloomberg and to Central Park Conservancy head Doug Blonsky accusing them of not properly caring for it.  Mr. Hawass threatened to have the obelisk returned to Egypt if conservation issues were not addressed. 

"I am glad that this monument has become such an integral part of New York City, but I am dismayed at the lack of care and attention that it has been given,"  Mr. Zahi Hawass wrote on his blog.

"Recent photographs that I have received show the severe damage that has been done to the obelisk, particularly to the hieroglyphic text, which in places has been completely worn away. I have a duty to protect all Egyptian monuments whether they are inside or outside of Egypt. If the Central Park Conservancy and the City of New York cannot properly care for this obelisk, I will take the necessary steps to bring this precious artifact home and save it from ruin,"  Hawass wrote.

Detail.  Thousands of years of neglect have damaged the surface of the Obelisk including its hieroglyphs. The soot and pollution which has blackened the stone will be cleaned in an upcoming project.

"I hope that this letter will spur the city of New York into action. This obelisk is a one of a kind monument that cannot be replicated or replaced. I sincerely hope that both the Mayor of New York City and the Central Park Conservancy can work together to save this artifact and preserve it for many more generations to come."

Several attempts to reach Mr. Hawass were unsuccessful.

Conservation Solutions, a leading heritage preservation firm out of Washington D.C. has been hired by the Central Park Conservancy to provide conservation services, including performing an assessment of the current condition and come up with a treatment plan. 

According to the firm's website, the company was engaged to perform a baseline assessment in preparation for the work that is planned to start in 2014. 

"Careful and thorough maps were created with an overlay grid of square meter panels. After determining a glossary of conditions,  each panel is being closely inspected and the findings annotated on paper and digitally. Sites are being stabilized if they present potential for imminent loss.  Once complete,  the assessment will provide the basis for the planned work."

The female-owned company has worked on a number of projects in the Park, including Sherman Monument (Augustus Saint-Gaudens) at Grand Army Plaza, at Fifth Avenue and Central Park South - the sculptural masterpiece that was recently unveiled after an extensive restoration.

Mark Rabinowitz,  executive-vice president for Conservation Solutions served as deputy chief of operations for Preservation at the Central Park Conservancy before moving on to the Parks Department as chief consulting conservator.

An exhibit at The Metropolitan Museum of Art celebrating the Central Park Conservancy's upcoming   conservation of the obelisk opens on December 3rd.   The exhibit will explore the meaning of obelisks in ancient Egyptian divine and funerary cults and will consider how these massive monuments were created and erected, as well as highlight the importance of this ancient architectural form in western culture, and how a long-standing fascination with obelisks  ultimately led to the erection of the one in Central Park, the Museum said in a statement. 

The museum has two of the original Roman bronze crabs once found at the base of the obelisk in its permanent collection. The ones displayed now were replaced with cast substitutes in 1881 when the obelisk was moved to Central Park and placed behind The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

"As the Central Park Conservancy begins to develop a plan to conserve the monument, the Metropolitan Museum will present an exhibition about the construction and evolving symbolism of obelisks from antiquity to the present day," the Museum said in a statement.

A highlight of the installation will be a dramatic time-lapse video of the obelisk in Central Park taken during the course of a day.


Cleopatra's Needle - the oldest man-made object in Central Park was built (1443 B.C) in honor of an Egyptian Pharaoh.
Its twin resides in Westminster in London.

Egypt agreed to gift the obelisk of Thutmose III,  to the United States in 1869.  It was erected in Central Park in 1881.

The New York Parks Department,  under commissioner Henry G. Stebbins,  began a fundraising project to secure the financing for the obelisk’s transportation from Alexandria.  Railroad tycoon William H. Vanderbilt stepped in and offered to sponsor the entire project,  putting up $100, 000.

And yes even movie legend Cecil B. DeMille had a role.   The plaques that translate the hieroglyphics at the base were donated by the academy award filmmaker, who fondly remembered playing in the area as a boy.  DeMille also directed parts of the Ten Commandments (1956), in Egypt. He also helmed Cleopatra. 

The 220-ton,  68-foot-tall monolith was removed from its pedestal and loaded onto the cargo steamer Dessoug on June 12,  1880. Just over 5 weeks later,  it arrived in New York,  and the obelisk was loaded onto a wagon,  which was hauled by a team of 32 horses from the Hudson River to its new home on Greywacke Knoll,  just across the driveway from the newly-constructed Metropolitan Museum of Art.

It took 112 days from the time the Obelisk arrived on the banks of the Hudson River until it reached the Park.

It took nineteen days  alone just to cross the 86th Street transverse road, and it took another twenty days to move it from Fifth Avenue to its resting place on Greywacke Knoll due to a winter blizzard according to the Parks Department.

Masonic stamp celebrating the 100th Anniversary in the park.  The Free Masons were an integral part of the obelisk's successful installation in Central Park.  Thousands turned out on January 22,  1881 to marvel as the obelisk was turned upright in Central Park.   The obelisk commemorates King Thutmose III and was a gift from the Egyptian government.

Thousands turned out in the snow on January 22,  1881 to marvel as the 220 ton obelisk was turned upright. 

Cleopatra's Needle is the second oldest antiquity displayed in our park system.  The Column of Jerash, in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park has the distinction of being the oldest. The 30 foot-high marble column was originally erected in 120 AD by Romans in the ancient Jordanian city of Jerash.  It was a gift of King Hussein of Jordan as part of the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair.

The Obelisk, looking east, 1890, in the Greywacke Knoll area of the park just across the driveway from the newly constructed Metropolitan Museum of Art in the background. The obelisk's only street view would later be completely eliminated from 5th Avenue as the result of the museum's south wing expansion.  

November 16, 2013.  The obelisk being surveyed last weekend.  The landscape area is particularly beautiful in spring when the monument is surrounded by flowering magnolias and crabapple trees.
(Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on images to enlarge

Read More:

A Walk In The Park -  January 7, 2011 

Cassier's Magazine - October 1910 - By Edward M. Caffall