Friday, October 17, 2014

Child Bitten By Pit Bull In Brooklyn Playground


Brooklyn

By Geoffrey Croft 

A 23-month-old boy was bitten by pit bull in a Brooklyn park according to police,  NYC Park Advocates has learned. 

The toddler was in a playground in Herbert Von King Park at Lafayette and Marcy Avenues when a leashed pit bull bit the child in the stomach causing a puncture wound.

The owner of the pit bull fled the scene.

EMS treated and transported the patient to Long Island College Hospital Pediatrics for a non-critical injury.

The incident occurred on Tuesday at approximately 12:10pm.

Man Found Dead - Stabbed 9 Times In Bronx Playground



Bronx

By Geoffrey Croft

An unidentified 50-year-old man was found stabbed nine times inside Lozada Playground in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx Thursday morning. 

Police officers responded to the scene just after 9am and found the victim with multiple stab wounds to the back of the head and chest. EMS transported the male to Lincoln Hospital, while en-route the victim was pronounced dead.

The victim's identification will be released after family notification.

Park workers said the playground opened at 7 a.m., but the victim wasn’t seen.  A parkgoer discovered the body two hours later, officials said.

The playground is located on E. 135th Street between Alexander Avenue and Willis Avenue adjacent to P.S. 154, the Jonathan D. Hyatt Elementary School which was temporarily locked down.

Read More: 

New York Daily News -  October 17, 2014 - By Rocco Parascandola, Thomas Tracy 


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Union Square Park Restaurant: High-End Eatery Not Returning To Children's Pavilion


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

An empty Pavilion Market Cafe in Union Square Park at lunch time. Is the controversial restaurant faltering? The restaurant was forced to eliminate breakfast service months ago due to poor business.  "The staff have left in droves,"  said an employee.  "Its hard to staff a seasonal restaurant and it doesn't help when the business is not there."    

The City is allowing the restaurant to remain open until October 31, past yesterday's "on or about" October 15 deadline.

A Park Experience? The concessioner was required to install up to a seven foot high barrier to separate the playground from the restaurant which is on the other side of the faux grass on the wall (above). 

Manhattan

By Geoffrey Croft

The controversial restaurant will not be returning to the historic Woman's & Children's pavilion in Union Square Park NYC Park Advocates has learned.  

Administration officials are currently working out the details which would move the high-end eatery out of the pavilion building and into the north end of the plaza.

One of the sticking points left is how much of the north end would the restaurant take up and whether or not the indoor space which is currently being utilized by the restaurant's kitchen would be removed and instead be used for community and neighborhood uses. 


The de Blasio administration had initially rebuffed the community,  and the local elected officials who have been unanimous in their opposition.



In January in one of the first court appearances under the new administration  city lawyers argued before the New York Court of Appeals that luxury restaurants belong in public parks – and it doesn’t matter how much they charge to eat there,  how many people can't afford it or how much land they take away.  In fact,  the city said,  these eateries can take up to “98 percent” of a park. 



The de Blasio administration shockingly argued in the State's highest court that there is virtually is no limit in the amount of space a restaurant can occupy in a public park. The city also argued that didn't matter how high the prices were even if the vast majority of people would be prohibited from affording it  - a restaurant would qualify as a "park purpose" under the law.  




No More Breakfast. The cheapest food item is a single piece of shrimp for $ 4 dollars.



The City’s Law Department also vigorously argued that it retains the legal right in the license granted to the restaurant concessionaire to freely terminate the contract “at will” at any time, citing the agreement.  

The Court of Appeals decision came at a critical time as parkland alienation,  the sale,  lease or use of parkland for non-park purposes without State legislative authorization,  was routinely exploited under the Bloomberg administration.  Increasingly the city has allowed parkland to be taken from communities and used as cash cows or as free real estate for commercial or industrial purposes in flagrant disregard of the law critics charge.

In March, numerous City, State and Federal elected officials sent a strongly worded letter to Mayor de Blasio imploring him to cancel the Bloomberg - era contract to build the controversial high-end bar/restaurant in the historic pavilion.


There is nothing progressive about displacing families, children, seniors and eliminating one of the county's most historic free speech sites in a public park. On Sunday March 9, elected officials,  community residents and representatives from more than 50 neighborhood associations came together to call on Mayor De Blasio to void the concession agreement and give back the pavilion to the people and do what is right for New York City.  


In April  at a closed-door meeting close to a dozen elected officials and representatives met with top administration officials at City Hall.

The group included  Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer,   NY State Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried,  City Council Member Corey Johnson and representatives from  NY State Assembly Member Deborah Glick, State Senators Liz KruegerBrad Hoylman, and Public Advocate Letitia James,  as well as a senior advisor to Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.   

Administration officials included Jon Paul Lupo,  director of the Office of City Legislative Affairs,   Marco Carrión, head of the mayor’s Community Affairs Unit, Emma Wolfe,  director of intergovernmental affairs and Peter Hatch, de Blasio's former chief of staff as Councilman and now senior advisor to first deputy mayor Anthony Shorris who lead the meeting.   

The elected officials presented their case and argued that the administration had the legal right to cancel the restaurant contract as the city had represented in court and won.

Administration officials were not moved. They countered by saying that canceling the contract was not so easy, a concept they were not so forthcoming about to the Court of Appeals, and was one of the major reasons why the court ruled in thier favor. 

Mayoral officials at the meeting also argued that canceling the contract would create "a bad precedent" for business.  

"They feel an obligation to the concessioner's investment, " said an elected official who attended the meeting, an account that was confirmed by several attendees.

"But what about the tens of millions in public money that was spent."    

The elected officials were not buying that excuse as both the city, and the concessioner were aware long before the business spent a dime that is was an issue.  

A few weeks after the meeting however elected officials were told by de Blasio officials that a deal had been made by the administration which would require the restaurant to move after the 2014 season which ends "on or about October 15"  according to concessionaire's license agreement with the city. 

NY State Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried, and State Senator Liz Krueger  included the news of the move in their most recent newsletters. 

As Public Advocate Bill de Blasio wrote to the New York State Liquor Authority expressing his "concern" in granting Chef Driven Market a liquor license adjacent to a public playground.  

"I urge the State Liquor Authority  to explore and weigh whether the license being sought by  Chef Driven Market, LLC is in the best interests of this community," he wrote in the October 19, 2012 letter. (below)

"In your delberations, I urge you to consider the proximity of similar businesses in the immediate area and the effect of this type of establishment will have on children using the adjacent playground," de Blasio wrote.


March 9, 2014. Assembly Member Richard Gottfried making a point.  


Is The Restaurant Faltering? 

It appears the controversial Pavilion restaurant may be not selling as many $495 bottles of Cristal champagne as they had hoped.

Several Chef Driven Market employees painted a bleak picture of restaurant fortunes.

The restaurant was forced to eliminate breakfast service months ago due to poor business and now the cheapest food item is a single piece of shrimp for $ 4 dollars.

On a recent afternoon a slight but steady drizzle left only the center tables dry from the cold damp wetness.  

"The staff have left in droves," said a The Pavilion Market Cafe employee on a recent visit.

"Its hard to staff a seasonal restaurant and it doesn't help when the business is not there."

When asked to estimate how many staff remain the employee replied,  "scant."

"They're trying to extend it to November 8th but I don't think we'll make it. Look at it," the employee said while pointing to the empty restaurant.  

"The city will evaluate The Pavilion's performance during its first season, and make adjustments as deemed necessary to their operation moving forward," the Parks Department said in a statement declining to comment on the deal.

The City is also allowing the restaurant to 
remain open until October 31, past yesterday's October 15th deadline because they opened on May 1st,  fifteen days later than thier contract specified. 

Background

The area around Union Square Park has the lowest amount of playground space but the highest concentration of restaurants in the entire city.  Since 2004 Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Union Square Partnership — a Business Improvement District/Local Development Corporation — have attempted to seize thousands of square feet of potential recreation and neighborhood space by turning the historic pavilion into a high-end restaurant.  The BID has been allowed to dictate public land use policy aided by an eight million dollar anonymous donation.

For the past decade the community has been fighting to have the historic pavilion in Union Square Park restored to its former uses which include a sheltered,  indoor recreation center that served a variety of year-round recreation and free public uses for children,  teens,  families,  seniors,  and the greater community at large.

In 2004,  Save Union Square Park,  a grass roots,  community - based campaign was organized by NYC Park Advocates to advocate for the needs of the community. With the help and support of 57 community organizations,  elected officials and a broad-based labor coalition,  the campaign succeeded in defeating an irresponsible plan to create a year-round restaurant and greatly increased the amount of playground space,  much of it recaptured from play areas lost to the previous seasonal cafe.

Plaintiffs including the Union Square Park Community Coalition sued claiming the City violated the Public Trust Doctrine which says that municipal park land can not be used for non-park purposes without the consent of the State Legislature. 


Read More:

Union Square pavilion restaurant could be cooked, local pols say
The Villager - October 16, 2014 -  By Lincoln Anderson

A Walk In The Park - March 10,  2014 - By Geoffrey Croft

A Walk In The Park -  January 16,  2014 - By Geoffrey Croft



As Public Advocate Bill de Blasio wrote to the New York State Liquor Authority expressing concern. 









Elected officials including Rosie Mendez, Dan Garodnick and Gale Brewer also wrote to the State Liquor Authority. 



Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Bear Cub Found Dumped In Central Park

Manhattan

By Geoffrey Croft

A dead black bear cub, three feet long, was discovered this morning in Central Park under a tree.

The discovery was made by a woman walking her dog near West 69th Street and the West Drive at approximately 10:30am.

The woman notified a Central Park Conservancy worker who called  911.

The bear had lacerations to its body including a gash to the neck according to sources.

The Police Department’s Animal Cruelty Investigation unit spent the morning searching for clues trying to determine the cause of death and how the bear ended up in the park. The working hypothesis is that the bear was brought by a people in vehicle and dumped there.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s wildlife pathology unit  is determining the cause of death.

Read More:

Bear cub found dead in Central Park, police suspect death was unnatural
New York Daily News - October 6, 2014  - By Chelsia Rose Marcius , Tina Moore 

In a Mystery, a Baby Black Bear Is Found Dead in Central Park
New York Times -  October 6, 2014  - By J. David Goodman and Daniel Krieger  

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. 

Read More:

NYPD: Gunman robs Queens Zoo of $5,000
The Associated Press - October 2, 2014


New York Daily News - October 1, 2014  - By Eli Rosenberg  

WNBC - October 1, 2014 - By Sheldon Dutes

DNAinfo - October 1, 2014 - By Katie Honan  

Queens Courier - By Cristabelle Tumola 

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