Thursday, February 9, 2017

Wash Sq. Pk Drug User Swallows Crack To Avoid Arrest


By Geoffrey Croft

A 60 year-old drug user with more than thirty arrests attempted to avoid another one in Washington Square Park by swallowing the evidence, NYC Park Advocates has learned.

The ploy did not work.

Two Park Enforcement Patrol Officers were patrolling the park on Monday afternoon when they observed what they believed to be a man smoking a crack pipe.

When they approached the man put  thecrack in his mouth and swallowed it.

“I don’t have it anymore because I swallowed it,” he replied when officers asked where the drug was.

EMS brought him to brought him to Lenox Hill Hospital and where he was cleared for processing.

PEP officers arrested Kenneth Ancrum, 60.

He was charged with Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance and Tampering With Physical Evidence.

Ancrum has at least thirty-two arrests, twenty-three for Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance.

The incident occured in the park near the corner of Washington Square Place and Washington Square West. 

Monday, February 6, 2017

Male 20, Arrested In Murder of Queens Jogger In Spring Creek Park

Shortly after 5:46pm on August 2, 2015, Karina Vetrano stepped over the low guardrail (top right) at the corner of 83rd St. & 164th Avenue. She slipped past the chain link fence and though the invasive weeds and entered Spring Creek Park as she and her father had done countless times before to go for a run.  The area is less than a block away from her family home.  Her lifeless body was found less than a half a mile away along a dirt service road surrounded on both sides by a solid wall of eight feet high invasive phragmites which    She was found strangled, beaten and partly nude. Her teeth were knocked out and bruises consistent with being dragged through the weeds.  (Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on images to enlarge.

"She was unlucky that day,"  Philip Vetrano the victim's father said,  commenting on the random nature of his daughter meeting the suspect on that terrible summer day. 


By  Geoffrey Croft

Police arrested a 20-year-old male from East New York for the heinous murder of Howard Beach jogger Karina Vetrano.  

Chanel Lewis was taken into custody on Saturday night at 6:00 in connection with the brutal August 2, 2015 murder after his DNA matched evidence taken from the crime scene police said. 

Karina Vetrano, 30 was senselessly murdered while doing what she enjoyed, running in Spring Creek Park.

The case had frustrated law enforcement, family and friends of the victim and the public.  Despite the tremendous amount of resources allocated to the investigation progress appeared elusive at times.

Persistence finally paid off. 

On Thursday, six months to the day that Karina was senselessly murdered,  detectives visited the home of Lewis on Essex Street in East New York where he lives with his family including his mother and two sisters.  

He voluntarily gave his DNA through a cheek swab.  Within two days they came back with a match from the medical examiner’s lab.

On Saturday police returned and asked Lewis to step outside were he was promptly arrested.

“This is a very good day for justice in New York City, ” NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said in his opening remarks at Sunday’s press conference at the 106th Pct. announcing the high-profile arrest.  

“After the extensive six month investigation during which over two hundred and fifty leads were received from the public and over seven hundred investigative reports were prepared, numerous DNA file searched, detectives were able to identify Lewis as a suspect in this case,” Boyce said providing details of the case. 

Chanel Lewis being escorted from the 107 Pct. to Queens Criminal Court on Sunday.  Lewis was arrested after the medical examiner’s lab matched DNA evidence from the crime scene to the suspect. He was charged with second-degree murder and has been remanded without bail.  Lewis attended special education school throughout his life. 

During his interview with detectives Lewis made, “detailed incriminating statements and admissions,” Boyce said.  

Police were able to determine that no one came out of the park on the Howard Beach side, which lead the investigation to East New York side in Brooklyn and the bike path area that runs along the Belt Parkway near where Lewis received the summonses.

During a “deep dive” of intelligence gathering police discovered a 911 call from May -  more than three months before the murder - made from an area resident of a “suspicious person” in the area.  

From that call the police were able to develop a profile over the last ten days.   Although Lewis has no prior arrests he did have three summonses in 2013,  NYPD Lt. John Russo, who lives in Howard Beach, tracked down the summonses which authorities said was key in helping to identify Lewis. 

At the time of the August incident police ran the recovered DNA through a national FBI database as well as a local state database of offenders.  The DNA did not match any DNA on file.

The state began collecting DNA for offenders in 1998 and this only proves the killer may have been in jail prior to '98 or he was never arrested for a crime for which a DNA sample is required.

Police had previously stated  that three separate DNA profiles were found all from the same person, an unidentified male.    Touch DNA - from contact with hands or body such as sweat or skin cells - was recovered on the victim’s cell phone which was found away from the body. The DNA was also recovered on her back,  behind her ear, and under Vetrano’s fingernails. 

“Karina helped us identify this person,” Chief Detective Boyce said. 

“She had the DNA under her nails she had touch DNA on her back and there was more DNA on the cell phone. Three instances, that’s how we were able to bring the profile up and that’s how we made the link,”  he said.

On Sunday Chief Boyce singled out Lt. Russo  as a “key player” in helping to identify Chanel Lewis as the prime suspect, he also highlighted the crime scene personnel who worked in the intense summer heat to recover the evidence used to catch the suspect. 

Early in the investigation police were pretty convinced it was a random crime, they had no evidence she was being stalked or she was killed by someone who knew her.

On Saturday they reaffirmed that stating that the incident,  “appeared to be a chance encounter.”

According to law enforcement sources Lewis used the park often. The day of  the murder he was going to get something to eat when he encountered the jogger he told police. 

Isolation and Cover - No Where to Run or Hide.  Police say Karina Vetrano encountered the suspect while jogging along this desolete  dirt path in Spring Creek Park where the thick, overgrown dense weeds trapped her.  For years area residents have complained about the park's lack of maitainence including highly agressive phragmites which grow upwards of twelve feet high.  These concerns have fallen on deaf ears, and in August had deadly consequences.

Shortly after 5:46pm  Karina Vetrano entered Spring Creek Park at the corner of 83rd St. & 164th Avenue less than a block away from her family home to go for a jog   She stepped over the low guardrail, slipped past the chain link fence and though the invasive weeds as she and her father had done countless times before.

There she jogged along an eight foot wide dirt road that snakes around the two hundred plus acre natural area park managed by the National Park Service.  Much of the narrow road is surrounded on both sides by an impenetrable wall of invasive phragmites, weeds that grow greater than eleven feet high and provided cover and an opportunity for the murder.  

Vetrano had been listening to music and texting a friend during the run but at some point that stopped Chief Boyce had previously  stated. 

The victim and the suspect encountered each other along the desolate dirt road.

They approached in opposite directions amidst the maze-like condition of the park where she allegedly scared him the suspect told police.

Her lifeless body was found less than a half a mile away from where she entered the park along off the dirt road surrounded on both sides by a solid wall of eight feet high invasive phragmites. 

Bright orange evidence marker cones at the crime scene in August.

The victim’s father and police found her body facedown in weeds about 15 feet off the desolate path.   

She was strangled, beaten and partly nude. Her teeth were knocked out and had bruises consistent with being dragged through the weeds.   She put up a fight.

The suspect maintains he did not sexually assault her.  

Chanel Lewis in Queens Criminal Court.

Lewis was arraigned in Queens Criminal Court and charged with second-degree murder. He was remanded without bail.  

His next court date is February 21st.

Lewis attended special education school throughout his life according to police sources.  On Sunday Chief Boyce declined talk about, "where he is socially." 

After the suspect’s arrest Karina’s parents spoke with reporters in front of their home. 
“I’m at a lose for words," the victim’s father, retired fiire fighter Philip Vetrano said.

”We had hoped to get to this point one day, we didn’t know when it was going to happen, it just happened very quickly. We can’t even respond to how we feel. We know yet,” he said.  

“Police did an excellent job, they solved this through good old hard investigative work,” Mr. Vetrano said.

Phragmites at the crime scene growing back aggressively less than two weeks after it had been cleared. 

I’m not going to say it’s a good day but we can move forward now,” he said.

Both parents praised the diligent police work that lead to the arrest of Lewis.

“We love our daughter so very very deeply,” said Cathy Vetrano.

“Our sorrow is so endlessly painful that hearing the news is not what I expected,  there is no happiness but we are grateful to the New York City Police Department,” who she credited as working endlessly and tirelessly to help bring her daughter’s killer to justice. 

“We would stop at nothing to find the savage that did this to her,” she said.

“Thinking about it logically, its was impossible for someone to follow her in there. It had to be a random ‘wrong place at the wrong time.’   She was unlucky that day,” the victim's father said after the suspect's arrest,  commenting on the random nature of his daughter's meeting with the suspect that fateful summer day. 

“The demon must get his justice and we will see to it,”  Mrs. Vetrano said.

Her husband agreed.

The family once again called for the state to allow familial DNA testing which could create partial matches from the relatives of criminals and help solve crimes by broadening the scope of potential suspects who’s DNA are not in Federal or state databases. 

On Thursday, the six-month anniversary of the murder, Mr. & Mrs. Vetrano and friends gathered at corner of 83rd St. & 164th Avenue 83rd Street the location where their daughter entered the park and spoke out in support of familial DNA testing.

Vetrano’s family and the NYPD have used the case to push the state to allow the testing. 

In August a track and multi terrain loader owned by the National Park Service was brought in to  help clear large tracks of invasive species to reduce fire danger.  The  vehicle is dwarfed by the massive phragmites which grow up to twelve feet high in the park.

The vehicle is equipped with a masticator, a large piece of equipment designed to mow and shred brush.    Mastication - mechanical brush mowing - is a temporary and cost effective method of cutting down large expanses of grasses.

A spokeswoman for Gateway National Recreation area has pointed out that simply mowing the weeds wasn’t a viable option for eradication. 

“It grows back very quickly and stronger and becomes more dense after mowing.” 

The roots need to be removed.  

The official National Park Service Spring Creek Park sign is obscured from the street by the invasive Porcelainberry.   Non of the green pictured here should be in the park.  The majority of the 200 acre park is filled with invasive plants due to more than a half a century of "deferred maintenance." 

Karina Vetrano entered Spring Creek Park at the corner of 83rd St. & 164th Avenue, less than a block away from her family home.  Her lifeless body was found less than a half a mile away along a dirt service road surrounded by a solid wall of eight feet high invasive phragmites. Police say she was brutally attacked and killed by Chanel Lewis of East New York who accessed the park from Brooklyn side of the Belt Park way. He visited the park frequently according to police sources. (Graph: NYC Park Advocates)

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

Read More:

A Walk In The Park  - February 4, 2017  - By Geoffrey Croft

A Walk In The Park - August 5, 2016 - By Geoffrey Croft

A Walk In The Park - August 3, 2016 

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Suspect Apprehended In Spring Creek Jogger Killing

Jogger Karina Vetrano, 30, was raped, strangled and beaten as she ran through Spring Creek Park in Howard Beach on August 2, 2015.  Police said she entered the park at 164th Street a block way from the family’s home.   Vetrano had been listening to music and texting a friend during the run but at some point that stopped. 


By Geoffrey Croft

Police apprehended a suspect wanted in the brutal murder of jogger Karina Vetrano, 30, police sources said.

Detectives brought the man into custody this afternoon after DNA was recovered from her body. 

Police have not yet not released the suspect’s name or age and said it was an active investigation.  Charges are pending. 

He was being questioned at the 106 Precinct in Howard Beach.

The victim’s body was found late in the unmaintained invasive weeds of Spring Creek Park, part of the Gateway National Recreation Area  near 161st Ave. and 78th St. in Howard Beach, Queens, less than a half a mile from her home. 

Ms. Vetrano went out for a jog around 5:00pm but did not come home. 

  Boyce said police found a pinging on the phone somewhere in the brush off the path, and her father walked police through the marsh to show them where she normally ran. He found the body face down, with detectives.  

Her partially nude body was found hours later, near a homeless encampment, face down, her under garment around an ankle.  Grass was found clutched in her hand, a result of her being dragged in the struggle.   

She had been raped, strangled and beaten to death while out doing what she loved, running outdoors in nature.

Karina Vetrano, 30, was found by her father hours after she went out for a jog in  Spring Creek Park

She was reported missing by her father, a retired FDNY firefighter after she failed to return home after her run.  Police conducted an extensive search of the area and found her body at approximately 10:50pm. 

Police launched a massive search to find the missing woman.   For weeks investigators combed through the invasive weeds that grow up to twelve feet high for evidence.

The lack of funding for maintenance coupled with the severe lack of enforcement manpower  from the Federal Park Police needed to cover the thousands of acres of Federal land were once again brought to light during the time of the murder. 

Police cordon off the area near 161st Ave. and 78th St. in Howard Beach the morning after  the body of Karina Vetrano, 30, was found dead in the marshes of Spring Creek Park, less than a half a mile from her father's home.  Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates. (Click on images to enlarge)

Friday, February 3, 2017

Attempted Rape of Park Worker - Suspect Caught


By Geoffrey Croft

Police apprehended the suspect wanted in the attempted rape of  a park worker, NYC Park Advocates has learned.

A 51-year-old Hispanic female park employee was sitting on a bench in front of the park house inside Jaime Campiz Playground on Wednesday at noon time when she was approached by male black in his 50’s and asked for a smoke according to police.

The woman said she didn’t have a smoke and got up and to walk away.

The suspect then offered her $150 to have sex with him. 

When she declined the offer he increased the offer to $200 and again she declined.

“I'm going to rape you then" he said and as he pushed her towards the park house holding in his hand what appeared to be a white rope.

She broke free and ran away and into the parks women’s bathroom where she told other females in the bathroom what had happened.

The suspect waited outside the bathroom for a few minutes while the women hid. 

He fled and got into a white tractor trailer that was parked west bound on the BQE service road.

The women told police the trailer had the words “Western General" on the side.

Cops canvassed for video and found video of the truck parking, the driver getting out and walking in the direction of the park before and returning 20 mins later.

Using GPS, police were able to determine the truck was in fact at the location and the company identified the employee/driver it was assigned to.

The driver was detained by police and was picked out of a line up by the victim.

Police arrested Darrell Long, 51 who resides on Marcus Garvey Blvd in Brooklyn.

Long was arrested and charged with menacing, harassment, criminal possession of a controlled substance and attempted sex abuse by force.

The suspect has 12 prior arrests.

He confessed to the attempted rape according to a police source. 

He is awaiting arraignment in Brooklyn criminal court.

The incident occurred in Jaime Campiz Playground at Metropolitan & Marcy Ave within the confines of the 90th Pct.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Ten Thousand Rally In Battery Park Against Trump's Immigration Ban - AG's Predict It Will Be Overturned By Courts

An estimated ten thousand people attended Sunday's rally Battery Park to protest Donald Trump's executive order .   (Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on images to inlarge.


An estimated ten thousand people gathered in historic Battery Park to protest the President’s executive order that temporarily prohibits migrants from seven mostly Muslim countries from entering the United States. 

The demonstration featured people from all backgrounds, nationalities and ages. Chants “No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here,”  “Impeach, impeach, impeach,”  were heard throughout the event.

Thousands of people held signs with many slogans including “America was built by refugees,” and “Muslim ban is un-American,”  “Let them in, let them in.”

The protestors were joined by numerous elected officials  including Mayor Bill de Blasio, Senator Chuck Schumer, Sen. Jerry Nadler,  New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and other city and state officials who spoke on a small platform just west of Castle Clinton National Monument.  

Sen. Charles Schumer denounced President Donald Trump’s executive orders calling them bad for America.

 “We are here today to deliver a vociferous, a vociferous no to both the president and those horrible horrible executive orders,” a fired up Schumer told the crowd.  

“They are bad for America, They’re bad for humanity, they are bad for national security and they are bad for everything that is American," he said.

Sign of the Times. Thousands lined the park's pathways holding up hand made messages.

City Comptroller Scott Stringer mentioned the enormous economic value immigrates bring to the City. 

“I do the books,” he said.

Comptroller Stringer also inferred the possibility of Trump getting impeached which brought loud chants of, “impeach, impeach, impeach,” from the crowd.

At Saturday’s rally, organizers announced that Attorney Generals from sixteen states representing “over 130 million American’s” including New York and California signed a letter calling Trump’s order illegal.  

“We are confident that the Executive Order will ultimately be struck down by the courts,” the letter said.   (Full statement below) 

Protesters later marched a mile north through the streets to another Parks Department property, Foley Square, across the street from the Manhattan offices of U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.

Sunday’s protest at Battery Park was co-sponsored by 12 organizations including the New York Immigration Coalition and New York Civil Liberties Union.

It was the second day in a row of large protests. Thousands demonstrated at John F. Kennedy International Airport Terminal 4 on Saturday.  

On Friday Donald, “grab them by the p***y” Trump signed an Executive Order banning refugees from entering the U.S. for 120 days and prohibit ones coming from war-torn Syria indefinitely. 

On Saturday night a federal judge in Brooklyn granted an emergency nationwide stay preventing the deportation of immigrants detained at U.S. airports and citizens from the seven countries already in transit to America. 

Her ruling was followed by similar federal judges decisions in California,  Boston, Virginia, and Seattle

U.S House and Senate Democrats will rally on the front steps of the Supreme Court today at 6:00 to protest Trump’s immigration order House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a letter to Democratic colleagues.  (Full statement below) 

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo offered legal assistance to anyone detained at New York airports,  and vowing to ensure the rights of refugees are protected under the law.

 “We have directed the Port Authority and my counsel’s office to make sure we are protecting the legal rights of any person detained at any of our airports, period,” the governor said at a news conference.

 “We will serve as counsel for any detainee who needs legal assistance,” he said.

Yesterday the Governor also announced the creation of a toll-free, 24 hours a day hotline to offer assistance to refugees left in vulnerable situations at New York area airports.   Loved ones  can report passengers on Incoming flights believed to be missing or detained  

Hotline #  1-888-769-7243

The large crowd making thier way out of the park to head north to Foley Square. (Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on images to inlarge.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi letter to Democratic colleagues.  

Attorney General Statement

Friday, January 27, 2017

Former Bronx Parks Commish Hector Aponte Passes Away


Former Bronx Parks Commissioner Hector Aponte passed away this week.  (Photo: Robert Rosamilio)   

By Geoffrey Croft

Long time Parks Department employee Hector M. Aponte passed away NYC Park Advocates has learned.

In January 2015 Mr. Aponte retired after nineteen years with the Parks Department, the last ten as Bronx Parks Commissioner, the borough he grew up in.

Mr. Aponte, 74,  began working for the Parks Department in 1995, holding various positions including Parks Manager and director of requirement contracts for  Manhattan parks.  In 2004 he became the Acting Deputy Chief of Operations for Manhattan.

He also worked briefly as the Chief of Operations in Staten Island before returning to the Bronx.

In November 2004, Mr. Aponte was appointed by Mayor Bloomberg to serve as the Bronx Parks Commissioner a position he held until his retirement.    

Before joining NYC parks he was the Acting Regional Director of the N.Y. State Office of Parks, Recreation.  He joined state parks in 1987.   

The Parks Department sent out a broadcast email yesterday announcing the passing of Mr. Aponte. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Massive Rotted Oak Tree Crashes Into Home On Staten Island

NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpi
A massive rotted oak tree crashed into a home on Edinboro Rd. in Staten Island on Monday night.  One of the occupants of the house, Rosalie Plevrites, 73,  escaped a potentially fatal injury because she was downstairs watching television when the tree fell.  Her husband was at work. (Photo: Luiz C. Ribeiro/For New York Daily News

Staten Island

A Staten Island woman narrowly escaped death when a massive oak tree crashed into her master bedroom, according to the New York Daily News. 

Rosalie Plevrites ducked a potentially fatal blow from the tree because she was watching television downstairs when the fall occurred at her Lighthouse Hill home at 336 Edinboro Rd. Monday at around 9:30 p.m.

 "I was in the lower den, and I just heard an absolute crash to the house," the retired school teacher told the Daily News.

"It was tremendous ... I thought the house was coming down, it was so intense."

NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpi
The huge Oak tree came crashing down in the master bedroom on Monday.

On Tuesday, limbs and boughs were all over the back deck and yard and part of the roof in the front of the house was caved in. Water from the storm came rushing in to the home shortly after the fall, Plevrites, 73, said.

Fortunately, her husband, Peter, 69, was at work at the restaurant he owns in Queens.

"He would have been in that room, probably," she said.

"Listen, it is scary, but when you think about it, those things do happen," Peter added.

The family is also grateful the Fire Department and a neighbor across the street helped out after the crash.

"We had such immediate attention that I became much more relaxed with the situation," Rosalie said. "I just can't say how fabulous all the assistance was."

Arborist Tom McAuley said the tree is likely between 50 and 60 years old and pointed out that the base of the trunk was rotted.

He warned other homeowners to check the health of trees on their property annually.

“It may be on the back of your mind but this is a good case, you see what can happen,” McAuley said.

Read More:

Massive oak tree crashes into woman's Staten Island home
New York Daily News - January 24, 2017 - By Ellen Moynihan & Reuven Blau

‘There Was Just This Crash:’ Massive Tree Smashes Into Staten Island Home
WCBS -  January 24, 2017