Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Queens Zoo Robbed At Gunpoint

Queens Zoo: entrance
The Queens Zoo in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park was robbed by an armed gunman on Sunday afternoon.

Queens

By Geoffrey Croft

The Queens Zoo in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park was robbed by an armed gunman NYC Park Advocates has learned.

The thief made off with $ 4, 873.00 in the brazen day-time robbery which occurred at 4:30 on Sunday an hour before closing time.  

The assailant pointed a black handgun at two zoo employees -  a woman, 56, and a 50-year-old male and said,  "The  money" according to the police report.

The perpetrator held a gun on one the employees while the other loaded the money into a bag and then fled of foot into the park.

The assailant is described as a 30-year-old male Hispanic, 5' 9 inches male, 150 pounds, 

Cameras at the location are not operational according to law enforcement sources. 

Flushing Meadows-Corona Park is leading the city in reported crime of the 30 parks the NYPD collects data for. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

3rd Annual Global Citizen Concert In Central Park Amid Heightened Security



In noticeably heightened security the U. S. Secret Service manned metal detectors at the third annual Global Citizen Concert in Central Park.  This is the first time such measures have been used for a concert in the celebrated park. (Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on images to enlarge

Manhattan


By Geoffrey Croft



The third annual Global Citizen Concert arrived in Central Park under noticeably heightened Security on Saturday.   

The U. S. Secret Service manned metal detectors,  the first time such measures have been used for a concert in the celebrated park.  

Police with high-powered binoculars scanned the audience, a number of bomb-sniffing dogs could be seen working in concert with a heavy police presents.  


No Doubt's Gwen Stefani belts out a song at the Global Citizen Festival 2014, which returned to Central Park's Great Lawn on Saturday.  The band commanded the stage in an electrifying set. 


Several Prime Ministers and the Queen of Sweden participated in the event which aims to end extreme poverty in the world by 2030.

The concert coincides each year with the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York. 

Actors Jessica Alba and Ryan Reynolds joined concert repeaters including Olivia Wilde and host Hugh Jackman and more than 60,000 attendees on a picture perfect day that reached a high of 83 degrees. 

Mayor Bill de Blasio & wife Chirlane McCray opened the festivities by greeting the crowd.


Mayor Bill de Blasio & wife Chirlane McCray open the festivities.  


Electronic DJ Tiesto opened the show followed by The Roots. NYC's The Fun performed a set including their anthem hit We are Young.   

A pregnant Alicia Keys dressed in all white performed her new single "We Are Here" with Israeli and Palestinian musicians. 

"The opposite of poverty is justice," she said. "Let's stop waiting for others to change our world and do it ourselves."



A very pregnant Alicia Keys after finishing her set. 


Carrie Underwood, also pregnant, performed a 50-minute set, including WastedJesus Take the Wheel,  and a cover of R.E.M.'s Everybody Hurts

 "This is very special," Underwood said. "I'm definitely going to file this under the 'coolest things I've ever done' category."   

Several international politicians including India's controversial new Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Norway's Prime Minister Erna Solberg and Queen Silvia of Sweden spoke. 

Modi addressed the crowd after being introduced by actor Hugh Jackman.    

"I feel a current of hope in this park, I feel confident about future of whole humanity," Modi said in a seven-minute speech in English.  After that he also read a Sanskrit scripture calling for "peace in the world" and greeted the audience with a "Namaste."  



Embedded image permalink
Previously Unwanted. India's controversial new Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing the crowd. "I feel a current of hope in this park, I feel confident about future of whole humanity, said "(Photo: Twitter)  


Modi ended his speech with "May the Force be with you" from Star Wars

The U.S. had previously denied Modi, a Hindu nationalist, a visa for his alleged complicity in the 2002 riots in Gujarat  the Indian state where thousands of Muslims were killed. He has received considerable criticism for allegedly allowing killing, raping and looting which lasted for months. A lawsuit filed in New York Federal accusing Modi of human rights violations stemming from his tenure as then Gujarat Chief Minister during the riots has been filed. 

No Doubt commanded the stage with a powerful set including their breakthrough hit "Just a Girl. "   

For their finale,  Gordon Sumner aka Sting joined the band for the Police hit "Message In A Bottle,  with the Central Park West resident and Gwen Stefani exchanging lead vocals. (They had previously performed the song live with Sting,  sans bass but with hair, at the 2003 Super Bowl)  Near the end of the song Gordon held a rousing 10 second note while singing,  "s e n d i n g  o u t".



Gordon Sumner, aka Sting, joined No Doubt for a rendition of the Police's Message In A Bottle.



Elmo and friend work the crowd.







Four PEP officers work the center aisle on the Great Lawn which leads up to the stage.


More than 60,000 people attended the event.




No Picnic In The Park.  The list of prohibited items continues to grow. Concert goers arriving with food and beverages were not allowed to bring them into the concert. Many people were forced to throw the items away,  irony that was not lost on many for an anti-poverty event.  The public was forced instead to purchase items at the event. 




















Prices for the event.


The audience were able to buy $ 8 sandwiches while supplies lasted which ran out about half-way through the event.   Event staff prevented the public from bringing in their own food.


Selling Lots Of Water.  Event organizers sold a lot of $ 3 bottles of water on a day that hit a high of 83 degrees while forcing the public to throw away water they had brought before they entered the concert. 


Fans gather outside of the Great Lawn along the park's East drive to listen to the show.  


Shawn Carter,  aka Jay Z opened his energetic and much anticipated set with Empire State of Mind, and performed half dozen more songs.  

The crowd went crazy when his wife, a glowing Beyoncé joined him onstage for "Holy Grail."   For their second and final song Shawn encouraged the crowed to hold up their cell phones, "Let's light this whole park up" he said before launch into Forever Young to end the show.


Every move of fan favorite Shawn Carter, aka Jay Z,  was documented by the audience. 

The night concluded with Shawn Carter, AKA Jay Z. He was joined by his wife Beyoncé. 

 (Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on images to enlarge


Read More:

New York Daily News - September 27,  2014 - By Jim Farber






Friday, September 26, 2014

City Still Not Complying With Park Crime Reporting Law


Thomas Jefferson Park - August  16th, 2014. Three men were shot and injured in the East Harlem park, one of the thousands of park properties the city is not tracking crime for. (Photo: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) 

Nearly ten years after the city was first legally required to begin tracking crime in parks the city is still not complying. In February 2014 the City was forced to pass another bill in an effort to get the information but the city has yet to comply with provistions of that as well.   That law required the tracking and disclosure of crime figures for the 100 largest parks by June 1st. That has not happened.  


A few weeks ago the Police Department posted quarterly park crime statistics for the first time. The data however only covered 31 parks, not 100 as required under the new law.


On September 9th, a 19-year-old male was shot in the face in Lyons Square Playground  in the Bronx.  

On August 20th, three people were robbed at gun-point in separate incidents in East River Park, one of the 70 parks that covered under the new law's reporting peroid.     

- Geoffrey Croft 



City-Wide


Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration hasn't complied with a new law requiring the disclosure of crime data in New York City's 100 largest parks, officials said, information the mayor had pushed to be released before his election.

The city began publishing quarterly crime statistics for the 20 largest parks in 2006 and later expanded it to the 31 biggest. A law passed this year required the disclosure of crime figures for the 100 largest parks by June 1, according to the Wall Strweet Journal. 
Mr. de Blasio was a passionate supporter of releasing more crime data about city parks when he was public advocate, penning a stern letter in 2012 to then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg and then-Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly after a burst of park violence.
"For a city that wrote the book on data-driven crime fighting, the dearth of statistics on crime in our parks is astounding," Mr. de Blasio said in a news release at the time, as he advocated a disclosure regime similar to what the council passed this year. "We need to fix these blind spots immediately."
However, June 1 came and went, and the statistics for the 100 biggest parks—still as of Thursday—haven't been published on the NYPD's website, as required. The law also mandates that crime figures be disclosed for all 870 parks bigger than an acre by 2017, and many other city recreation spots by 2018.
Mayoral aides and officials at the New York Police Department, which tracks park crimes, said they hoped to comply by the end of the year.
Because crimes are recorded by street address, most crimes in parks have to be manually counted by the NYPD, officials said. The NYPD said it was updating its computer system to be able to capture the data "quickly and accurately" in public parks and other required places well ahead of the timetable outlined in the new law.
"The NYPD takes this responsibility seriously and is committed to not just enhanced public safety in our parks, but also clear reporting of data," the department said in an email.
Phil Walzak, a spokesman for Mr. de Blasio, said: "We're committed to making sure New Yorkers are soon provided these important crime stats on their neighborhood parks."
Lawmakers and advocates for city parks said they were disappointed with the administration.
City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito's office "expressed displeasure at the lack of data with NYPD," said her spokesman, Eric Koch, after The Wall Street Journal inquired about the issue.
"The speaker strongly believes in reporting parks crime statistics and we continue to work with stakeholders to press for the data in a timely manner," Mr. Koch said.
Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson, a Bronx Democrat and chairwoman of the council's Committee on Public Safety, said she would hold the NYPD to a commitment to publish the data by the end of the year. "You missed one deadline, and we want to make sure we're getting the information," she said.
Geoffrey Croft of NYC Park Advocates, a nonprofit watchdog group, said it was irresponsible to not publish the data. "It's policing 101 to know where crimes are occurring," Mr. Croft said.
"We need to move as quickly as possible to have that kind of critical detail," said Councilman Mark Levine, a Manhattan Democrat and chairman of the council's Committee on Parks and Recreation.
Not everyone thought it was a good idea to force the NYPD to gather park crime data in places as a small as city playgrounds.
In December, during his final week in office, Mr. Bloomberg vetoed the legislation, writing in his veto message that the bill was "unreasonable and impractical." Mandating the release of this information, Mr. Bloomberg wrote, would draw "valuable police resources away from actual police work."
The city's Department of Parks and Recreation oversees roughly 29,000 acres of land—or about 14% of the five boroughs—including more than 5,000 individual properties. The agency operates nearly 1,000 playgrounds, 66 public pools, more than 800 athletic fields and 14 miles of beaches.
In February, in one of Ms. Mark-Viverito's first acts as speaker, the 51-member council voted unanimously to override Mr. Bloomberg's veto, turning the bill into law immediately.
As The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year, major felony crimes in 31 of the city's biggest parks—the only parks with available crime data—increased nearly 18% in 2013 compared with the previous year. The 2013 total was the highest yearly level since officials began collecting data for these parks.
During the first half of 2014, crime in these 31 parks is down roughly 12%, compared with the same period last year.
During the second quarter of this year, three parks—Central Park, Flushing Meadows Corona Park and Randall's Island Park—accounted for more than 60% of the crime in all 31 parks; grand larceny and robbery were the two crime categories with the highest number of incidents.



Read More:

Wall Street Journal - Sept. 25, 2014 -  By Michael Howard Saul

Bloomberg's Park Crime Reporting Bill Veto is Overridden By City Council
A Walk In The Park -  February 4, 2014 - By Geoffrey Croft

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Beloved PEP Officer Gerald Esposito Passes Away




























PEP Officer Gerald "Jerry" Esposito.  "It is my belief that God called him, whom I know he loved very much, after a life of kindness, service and example to others."  -  Friend


Bronx

By Geoffrey Croft

A beloved Park Enforcement Patrol officer has passed away NYC Park Advocates has learned. 

Gerald Esposito, 65, was found in his home on Pauling Avenue in the Morris Park section of the Bronx Monday by colleagues after he failed to report for work on Sunday.


It is believed he passed due to natural causes. 

He had just celebrated his 65th birthday and his ninth year as a PEP officer.

"Jerry" Esposito served in the Battery Park City Command and in Hudson River Park. 

A veteran of the United States Navy he served on active duty for two years and eight more as a reservist  before he joined the Parks Department as an officer on September 19, 2005, according to Parks'. 

"I just started crying,"  fellow officer Jessica Torres said when she found out.

"He was a very compassionate caring person who went out of his way to help people. He was never confrontational," she said.

Torres, who worked with him at Hudson River Park,  was told that when he left work on Saturday he complained about neck and shoulder pain.  He died later that night.

"We just saw him. He just turned sixty-five. We were just talking about how there were only four of us left who graduated from the academy together.  Everyone left.

"He was just so nice, so humble," she said.

 “Gerald Esposito touched many lives during his tenure at Parks and he became an important presence on his post at Battery Park City," the Parks Department said in a statement.

"His love of the City and its history made him a welcome presence for so many New Yorkers. Our thoughts are with Gerald’s family and friends at this time.”

He is survived by a younger brother Phillip Esposito who lives in California.

More Delays In Restoring Crumbling Historic Harlem Fire Watchtower


The historic Harlem Fire Watchtower, also known as the Mount Morris Fire Watchtower, (1856) sits atop the Acropolis, the highest elevation in Marcus Garvey Park (formerly Mt. Morris Park) deteriorating. (Photo: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) 

The area has long been a hotbed for drugs and prostitution. Instead of providing the necessary resources to secure and maintain the area which would allow the public to enjoy this formerly majestic spot,  for decades the city has instead allowed it to remain in disrepair.  The watchtower,  a city landmark, has been allowed to severally deteriorate. Instead of fixing it the Parks Department shamefully erected a chain link fence around a large section of the perimitor of the crumbling watchtower which has created additonal public safety issues.    

The watchtower, a city landmark, is the only surviving one of eleven cast-iron watchtowers placed throughout New York City in the 1850s.  $ 4 million dollars was allocated last year to repair the crumbling structure however delays have continued.

The Parks Department has entered into a $2.5 million emergency contract with Nicholson & Galloway, a leading preservation firm, to remove the tower and  put it into storage at Fort Totten in Bayside, Queens.

That area of the park was in the news earlier this month when a man was shot by police.

Manhattan

The project is going to get done, city officials say, but it’s going to have to be done differently than initially planned.  

The decaying state of Manahttan’s only remaining cast-iron fire watchtower forced officials to re-think earlier plans to dismantle, restore, refabricate and re-install it under one contract, said Parks Department spokesman Philip Abramson, according to the New York Daily News.  

Marcus Garvey Park’s Fire Watchtower Preservation

My office announced a $1 million allocation yesterday that will complete the preservation of the historic Fire Watchtower in Harlem’s Marcus Garvey Park—the last such 19th century structure standing in New York City. This allocation was the final financial piece needed to finish a restoration project that began in the early 90’s.
Without the funding provided today and the restoration work to follow, we were in danger of losing a significant part of Harlem’s history I’m proud that a structure which had been abandoned and fenced off will once again become a beautiful and vibrant part of this public park. I’m also proud to have worked with the Marcus Garvey Park Alliance and the Mount Morris Community Improvement Association to have made this possible.  
This 47-foot, cast iron tower has been watching over Harlem since 1857 and was designed as a lookout post for fire volunteers, who would climb the stairs, look out for fires and ring a 10,000-pound bell in the event of a blaze. Even as the fire department modernized, replacing towers with telegraphic alarms, the tower played a role in the community, with the bell sounding during the week and on Sundays for timekeeping and church purposes. The tower is a designated New York City landmark and is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

August 28, 2013. Last Summer Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer held a press conference to announce the restoration of Harlem fire watchtower and a $1 million allocation.



The last of eight 19th century Manhattan emergency alert systems was found to be in “poor to failed structural condition” by a Department of Buildings inspector earlier this year. 

Additional supports were found to be insufficient and even dangerous, Abramson said. 

“The only responsible action is to dismantle and store the structure as quickly as possible so that we do not risk losing it entirely,” he added.  

The agency entered into a $2.5 million emergency contract with Nicholson & Galloway, a leading preservation firm, to take the tower apart and get it into storage at Fort Totten in Bayside, Queens.


A decrepit staircase leading to the Harlem Fire Watchtower.  (Photo: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) 


City and elected local officials doled out a combined $4.2 million last year toward the restoration of the watchtower, and preservationists and residents have expressed concern that the city-ordered changes in the plans could delay the project.

“Everybody has a sense of interest and pride (in the watchtower) — it’s in our neighborhood,” said Sam McClendon, president of the Mount Morris Park Community Improvement Association. 

“The concern is the down time, the lag time in getting the (work started). It’s the delay that concerns everyone the most.”  

Councilwoman Inez Dickens, who contributed nearly $2 million toward the project, said she was going to meet with the Parks Department for an update. She also hopes to add WiFi to the tower.  

The agency has begun discussions with an engineering firm, Thornton Tomasetti, to revise the design contract, Abramson said, adding that the plans will be modified and shared with community groups this summer.  

Shortly thereafter, the agency will start looking for a contractor to begin restoring the rusty, crumbling 47-foot relic.

The historic Harlem Fire Watchtower, also known as the Mount Morris Fire Watchtower, sits atop the Acropolis, the highest elevation in Marcus Garvey Park (formerly Mt. Morris Park).


Read More:

New York Daily News - September 23, 2014 - By Jan Ranson 

WCBS - August 28, 2013 

Delays In Fixing Giant Forest Park Sinkhole Creates Hazards



Pedestrians avoid a gaping sinkhole on the sidewalk along Forest Park Drive near Woodhaven Blvd. Local residents say the Parks Department has been slow to fix the sinkhole on Forest Park Drive. Meanwhile it has grown bigger over the last two years. Parks officials said it was caused by erosion and a repair plan is in the works.  (Anthony Delmundo  /New York Daily News

Queens

A growing sinkhole has been eating away a chunk of sidewalk along a busy stretch of Forest Park for at least two years, creating a hazard for pedestrians and runners, locals said, according to the New York Daily News. 

 “It’s a big blemish on our beautiful park,” said Marge Augliera, who has lived in Woodhaven for more than 40 years. 

“And it’s in an area that is very dangerous to visitors coming to our wonderful carousel and bandshell.”  

Parks Department workers placed metal barriers around the crater — which is 4 feet deep and about 10 feet wide — more than a year ago. But the city did nothing more to fix the fissure on Forest Park Drive, residents said. 

 “We saw the barricades and the sign that says ‘under construction,’ so we knew Parks was aware of the problem, and we assumed it would soon be fixed,” said Ed Wendell of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association. 

“Then another summer rolled around and nothing had been done. It had grown, and the barricades were still up.”  

Parks officials, who believe the sinkhole was caused by erosion from stormwater runoff, are now developing a plan.

We are currently designing a solution, which will include clearing and upgrading existing drainage structures, filling the sinkhole, reconstructing the sidewalk and stabilizing the adjacent slope,” the agency said in a statement.

 “A contractor has already been mobilized to begin the work.”  

Augliera said leaving such a visible part of the park in disrepair sends the wrong message.  

“People will think our park is not taken care of,” she said. “They will just go to other parks.”  

Wendell is hoping the next round of participatory budgeting, in which neighborhood residents can vote on how some city money is spent, will focus on fixing up the park.  

“Unfortunately, if you walk through Forest Park, you’ll see a lot of busted and broken sidewalks, missing handrails and portions of sidewalks just plain missing,” he said. 

“This park needs money and resources.”

Read More:

New York Daily News -   September 23, 2014 - By  Lisa L. Colangelo  

Bike Activists Post 20 MPH Signs In Central Park After Cyclist Death




Members of a bike advocacy group,  Right of Way posted unofficial 20 mph signs in Central Park on Tuesday in an effort to help raise awareness for pedestrian safety and the need to slow down. Official traffic signs in the park are 25 mph. The group also held a moment of silence for Jill Tarlov, who died after being hit by a bicyclist last Thursday in the park.  (Photo: Ken Murray/NYDaily News)
















Manhattan


There’s no need for speed in Central Park — at least according to the activist bikers who put up unauthorized signs Tuesday night that shave 5 mph off the limit, according to the New York Daily News. 

“20 is plenty,” said signs put up by Right of Way, a biking group advocating for pedestrian safety. 

 “We’re trying to slow people down. The existing laws don’t work,” said group co-founder Charles Komanoff.  

A half-dozen activists’ covert op involved a metal ladder and plenty of zip ties to affix 10 faux speed limits to light poles.  

The group held a moment of silence near W. 63rd St. to remember Jill Tarlov, 59. Seriously injured by a biker last week, the mother and wife died Sunday.

Read More:

New York Daily News - September 24, 2014 - BY Kerry Burke 

A Walk In The Park - September 23, 2014  - By Geoffrey Croft