Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Robert Swann Sentenced To 25 years In Killing Of Parks JTP Co-Worker Outside Al Oerter Rec. Center

A jury at Queens Criminal Court found Robert Swann, 53, guilty of manslaughter in the killing of Ezra Black, 31, outside the Al Oerter Recreation Center on September 4th, 2012. (Photo by Ellis Kaplan)


Robert Swann, 53, was sentenced to 25 years for killing his co-worker Ezra Black, 31, outside the Al Oerter Recreation Center on September 4th, 2012.

Swann was found found guilty of manslaughter two weeks ago by a jury in Queens criminal Court. 

Mr. Swann and Mr.  Black were welfare workers employed by the Parks Department when Swann stabbed his co-worker to death in the chest during an altercation outside the recreation center 
near Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens.

The two welfare recipients were loading garbage that according to Local 983 reps they aren't even supposed to be doing - when they got into an argument over garbage bags according to park sources.  Swann made several threats about killing him prior to the incident sources said. 

They had been bickering for days. 

Swann a grabbed a knife with a wooden handle from a cafeteria and went outside stabbed  him. He calmly left the scene and disappeared into Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

Park employees at the scene did not call 911 to say a suspect was loose or give a description of the assailant according to a source at the scene.  

"They wanted to keep it quiet," the source said.

Instead the Al Oerter Recreation Center manager went looking for police in the park but could not find any. 

He found PEP officers Ralph Baselice and Sgt. Charles St. Louis inside the PEP headquarters in the Passerelle building who jumped into his car and began driving around the park looking for him.

Officer Baseline broadcasted a description of the suspect over a police radio they had because of the U.S. Open detail. 

While driving around the park an observant St. Louis spotted Swann - who had disposed of his parks uniform - not far from the Unisphere walking towards exit of the park.

The stabbing victim Ezra Black was taken to New York Hospital Queens, where he later died.

"I don't understand why this was allowed to get to this point,"  a parks worker familiar with the situation said at the time. 

"The manager should have dealt with it before it came to this. Everyone knew these guys were fighting."

Concerns have once again been raised over the lack of background checks, especially for people with violent criminal histories for parks workers enrolled in the welfare-to-work program. 

Black reportedly has more than two dozen prior arrests that include assault,  menacing and criminal use of a firearm.

A parks spokesperson defended hiring people with criminal histories.

Read More:

A Walk In The Park - September 30, 2012 - By Geoffrey Croft

A Walk In The Park - September 5, 2012 - By Geoffrey Croft

Monday, April 21, 2014

Still No Permanent Home For Yankee's New York City Football Club

The proposed field configuration for NYC Foottball Club which is 25% owned by the NY Yankees. The team has their sites on a nearby parking garage operated by the Parks Department to build the  $ 350 million stadium. 

No conversations yet however regarding replacing the public parkland permmanently lost to build Yankee Stadium.


By Geoffrey Croft

Are negotiations to acquire the Parks Department-run parking lot near Yankee Stadium to build the
$ 350 million,  25,000 -30,000 seat soccer stadium going well?

From the looks of the faces of team officials earlier today maybe not well enough.  

In a somber press conference this morning the Yankees and New York City Football Club announced that Yankee Stadium will be the team's home for the foreseeable future. 

Last week the NY Times reported that the first three seasons of the fledgling new soccer club will be played at Yankee stadium.

Officials refused to confirm or commit to a timeline.

With no permanent home in site officials were peppered with questions about securing a permanent new home.

"This is the one thing missing from all these announcements is how long do you think this particular arrangement is going to last at Yankee Stadium. At Least three years,"  asked a reporter addressing the elephant in the room.
"It's gonna last for as long as it doesn't last," said Yankee President Randy Levine speaking as if he was at a funeral. 

"We're not going to put any timetables on it. This is the home of the New York City football club and if there's a change we'll let you know."

New York City FC Chief Business Officer Tim Pernetti also addressed the issue several times.

"We're not going to put a time line on it, said Mr. Pernetti.  "I think  that our goal will be to find the right relationship, the right community to build a soccer specific stadium and to be in that stadium as soon as possible."

He said they are still pursuing a goal that would build a soccer specific stadium in the five boroughs but they will not create an artificial deadline.

Officials also asked if they were "absolutely committed" to the notion of finding a stadium within the five boroughs and if finding one in Westchester or Long Island would be "a deal breaker."

"We are going to build a soccer specific stadium in New York City," Mr. Pernetti said later.  

"We are going to take what ever time is necessary to get it right."  he said.

The Parks Department run garage on E. 153rd Street & River Avenue, the proposed site of a $ 350 million, 28,000 seat soccer stadium is located 80 feet away from residents.   (Photo: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on images to enlarge. 

Scheduling Conflicts?

With the MLS schedule running through October and the playoffs in November, the overlap with the Yankees post season play is high.

A reporter sensibly asked the Yankees if it was safe to assume that October would be off-limits for soccer dates in order to accommodate the Yankees. 

"I think its pretty clear we are not going to do anything that affects the Yankee schedule,"   said Randy Levine, who was barely audible during the press conference. 

Levine said they didn't expect any scheduling conflicts.

"If there is, there are other venues in the city," he said.  

Read More:

Capital - April 28, 2014 - By Howard Megdal 

Gothamist - April 21, 2014 - Dan Dickinson

NYC Soccer Team To Play At Yankee Stadium For First Three Years
A Walk In The Park - April 15,  2014

NY Yankees Looking to Seize More Bronx Parkland To Build Major League Soccer Stadium
A Walk In The Park -  December 11, 2013 - By Geoffrey Croft

3 Teens Nabbed In Central Park Attacks


Police have caught three teens wanted in connection for several Central Park robberies early this morning.

Police say the children - ages 12, 13 and 14,  first approached a 32-year-old man at 5th Avenue and East 95th Street outside the park at 5:15 a.m. this morning. One of the teens was wielding a stick. The group demanded the man's property,  he hesitated and one of the teens punched him in the face. The attackers then fled into the park at 96th Street.

Inside the park, approximately fifteen minutes later the teens approached two women, 48 and 46, near the reservoir.  The assailants approached the woman and demanded their property.  The 48 year-old handed over and iphone and the 46-year-old handed over an ipod and the perps fled.

Police searched the park and found three attackers at 96th Street and Fifth Avenue and remain in custody. 

Cops are also interviewing two more suspects.

- Geoffrey Croft

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

NYC Soccer Team To Play At Yankee Stadium For First Three Years

The Yankees are attempting to seize  a nine-acre parcel between the Major Deegan Expressway and East 153rd Street that could accommodate a 25,000-to-30,000-seat stadium with connections to subways and rail lines. 


New York City F.C., a team that will enter Major League Soccer next year, will play its first three seasons at Yankee Stadium, according to two people familiar with the team’s plans,

The team, which is jointly owned by the Yankees and Manchester City of the Premier League, is expected to make the announcement next week.  

The question of where the team would play its home games has hovered since it was announced last May that the club would join the league, delaying plans for everything from marketing and advertising to season ticket sales. The team has frequently promised a decision — it told the league in January that it would have a plan in 30 days — but has consistently missed even those self-imposed deadlines, to the frustration of M.L.S. officials and prospective fans.  

The Yankee Stadium solution is a temporary reprieve; the team must find a site for a permanent home and construct it, and the three-year commitment at Yankee Stadium could be a hint at how difficult that might be. 

After community opposition derailed plans for a stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park last year, the Yankees turned their attention to a site near Yankee Stadium. In August, the Yankees’ president, Randy Levine, said the team was in negotiations for a nine-acre parcel between the Major Deegan Expressway and East 153rd Street that could accommodate a 25,000-to-30,000-seat stadium with connections to subways and rail lines. 

But the team has announced no progress since then, and with the 2015 season less a year away, the announcement of a temporary home will buy the club some time. 

The practical considerations of the Yankees and New York City F.C. sharing the same stadium are unclear; M.L.S. and Major League Baseball play March-to-October schedules. When Manchester City and Chelsea played an exhibition at the Stadium in 2013, temporary grass was installed over the infield dirt for the soccer game. 

But that game was a single match played during an eight-game Yankees trip, not a full schedule — currently 34 games for M.L.S. teams — that would require repeated installation and removal of the grass, and result in far more wear and tear on the rest of the playing surface.  

A Yankees executive emphasized to reporters earlier this year that a potential shared space was not a concern, saying the Yankees “realized what we were getting into” when they went into their M.L.S. partnership with Manchester City. 

At an event in February to announce a summer exhibition game between Manchester City and Liverpool, Mark Holtzman, the Yankees’ executive director of nonbaseball events, said the team generally required several days to prepare for events and then several more to repair the playing surface for baseball. But he also noted that since its opening in 2009, the stadium has hosted soccer games as well as a schedule of summer concerts. 

“Technology has gotten to the point where I think we can turn it around pretty quickly,” Holtzman said. 

“Baseball is clearly the No. 1 priority,” he added. “We wouldn’t do anything to put anyone at any risk; there’s a major investment here in the players. At the end of the day, we look at these opportunities very carefully, and we wouldn’t get into these opportunities unless we were confident in the end result.”  

Ken Belson contributed reporting.

Read More:

New York City F.C. to Play at Yankee Stadium for Three Years
New York Times - April 14, 2014 - By Andrew Das and David Waldstein 

NY Yankees Looking to Seize More Bronx Parkland To Build Major League Soccer Stadium
A Walk In The Park -  December 11, 2013 - By Geoffrey Croft