Saturday, August 23, 2014

Tompkinsville Park Deteriorates Since Police Orders Parks' To Keep It Open Since Eric Garner's Death

Unlawful activity in Tompkinsville Park has increased dramatically since the Police Department instructed the Parks Department not to lock up the park at night. The order came the day after the choking death of Eric Garner's by the police.  As of July, there have been close to a hundred arrests in the vicinity of park this year on quality-of-life type violations.   "The park needs a lot of attention," said a Park law enforcement source. "Public urination, drinking, drug use,  the homeless are washing their clothes in the fountain."  

Police expect a large crowd today at a planned march and rally. The event is expected to begin at 11 a.m. at 204 Bay St. across from Tompkinsville Park where the 43-year-old Garner was killed. 

Staten Island

The NYPD has told the Parks Department to stand down when it comes to aggressively patrolling the park that is located right in the middle of the uproar surrounding Eric Garner's death at the hands of police. NY1's Amanda Farinacci filed the following report.
A sign outside Tompkinsville Park reads "This Park Closes at Dusk." And yet at 10 o'clock at night its gates are unlocked and there are still people hanging out inside.
"I've seen like people drinking, out of the paper bags and stuff, I haven't actually seen like drug use, but I mean, you'll see the guy smoking the doobie and whatever," said one passerby.
As of July, there were close to a hundred arrests in the park this year on quality of life type violations. It's just one of 11 on Staten Island that is supposed to be locked every night by the Parks Enforcement Patrol, or PEP.
PEP officers lock the gate and clear loiterers from the area in the hopes of preventing vandalism and other illegal activity. Parks officers - and the NYPD - are allowed to issue summonses to anyone caught hanging around inside after hours. Residents say that has been common practice for the last several years, until very recently.
"It's supposed to be closed; there's no lights in the park," said one neighborhood resident.
"If they always close it then they shouldn't have changed that," said another neighborhood resident.
But since Eric Garner's death across the street at the hands of the police, residents say that has changed.
Garner is the 43-year-old father of six who died during a quality-of-life crackdown by police who were trying to stop the illegal sale of cigarettes.
The medical examiner ruled the death a homicide and a grand jury will decide whether charges will be brought in the case.
Sources say since Garner's death, the Parks Department has been told by the NYPD to stop locking the park and issuing summonses to anyone hanging out inside.
"The police want it open? Why? That makes no sense," said one Tompkinsville resident.
In the short time NY1 was at the park, the station witnessed public drinking, public urination, and a fist fight: All reasons residents say the park should be off limits after dark.
The NYPD confirms it did tell the Parks Department to relax its rules about closing the park because of the sensitivity of the situation with Garner, pointing to a memorial in his honor nearby.
Police vehicles were visible during NY1's visit and the NYPD says the area is still heavily patrolled.
Read/View More:

NY1 - August 22, 2014 - By Amanda Farinacci  

Friday, August 22, 2014

Woman On Bike With Dog Run Over By Parks Department Garbage Truck


Parks Department mini-packer garbage truck. (File Photo)  The Parks' truck hit a 20-year-old woman while biking and her  5-month-old Pomeranian. 


By Geoffrey Croft

A 20-year-old woman and her  5-month-old Pomeranian puppy, Charlie, were injured after being struck by a Parks Department garbage truck NYC Park Advocates has learned.

The incident occurred yesterday evening around 5:10pm at 104 Street & 43 Avenue.

A Parks Department source said the rider was weaving through traffic on her bike when it struck by the garbage truck.

The woman sustained an injury to her left arm when the rear tire of  "mini-packer" ran over it. 

The injured bike rider and dog were transported to Elmhurst Hospital. The woman was in stable condition according to EMS.

The puppy suffered three fractures and substantial bleeding, but no internal injuries, so he should be able to make a full recovery according to the FDNY. 

Read More:

City Parks Dept. Truck Hits, Injures Woman Biking With Her Puppy in Queens
DNAinfo - August 22, 2014 - By Natalie Musumeci  

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Suspect Wanted In Central Park Robberies

The police released this sketch of a suspect wanted in several strong-arm robberies
in Central Park since Monday in the vicinity of 74 Street and East Drive near the Loeb Boathouse just after 12:00am. In both incidents the assailant placed the victim in a chokehold and robbed them.  


The NYPD is seeking the public's assistance in locating and identifying the following individual wanted in connection to a robbery pattern within the confines of the 22nd Precinct (Central Park). 

The circumstances are as follows:

1:  On Monday, August 18, 2014 at approximately 0005 hours, the suspect approached the 47 year-old male victim from behind in the vicinity of 74 Street and East Drive and placed him into a chokehold. The suspect then brought the victim to the ground and removed his backpack, which contained $7 in cash, one (1) debit card, and two (2) credit cards.  The suspect then fled to parts unknown.

2:  On Wednesday, August 20, 2014 at approximately 0025 hours, the suspect engaged the 47 year-old male victim in conversation in the vicinity of 74 Street and the East Drive and placed him in a chokehold.  The suspect then brought the victim to the ground and removed his bag, which contained $140 in cash and a debit card.

The suspect is described as follows:

Male, Black, approximately 6'5"

A sketch is attached.

Anyone with information in regards to this incident is asked to call Crime stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime stoppers website at WWW.NYPDCRIMESTOPPERS.COM or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577.

All calls are strictly confidential.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Judge Dismisses Flushing Meadows Park "Willets Point West" Lawsuit - Group Vows To Appeal

A scheme hatched by the Bloomberg Administration and the City Council aims to hand over 47. 5 acres of Flushing Meadows - Corona Park worth as estimated $ 1 billion dollars to The Related Companies and Sterling Equities to build a 1.4 million sq. ft. mall known as Willets Point West. They are attempting to push the massive project through without receiving any approvals or even a vote. (Photo: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) 


A New York State Supreme Court judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed to prevent dozens of acres of public parkland from being developed into the city's largest shopping mall.  The group vows to appeal.     

Justice Manuel J. Mendez  dismissed the lawsuit which challenges the give-away of 47 acres of public parkland in Flushing Meadows Corona Park worth an estimated $ 1 billion to The Related Companies/ Sterling Equities to build "Willet's West," a 1.4 million square foot mega-mall adjacent to CitiField.  (full decision below)

A coalition of area residents,  environmental groups, business and home owners, and State Senator Tony Avella filed a lawsuit in New York County Supreme Court in February demanding the City halt its illegal handing over of mapped Parkland to build a mega-mall.

The suit also asks the Court to nullify actions taken by the Planning Commission, and approved by the Council in October of last year, to permit construction of parking facilities in Willets Point in lieu of the affordable housing and supportive facilities called for by the 2008 plan.  

The complaint alleges that the project cannot proceed without approval by the State Legislature under the “public trust” doctrine that protects all parkland throughout the State against non-park uses without the consent of the Legislature which was not requested or obtained.

The City and developers claim entitlement to the land based on a 1961 law which authorized the construction of Shea Stadium.

The suit claims that the 1961 law never granted the defendants the use of the premises for these purposes.  

During the oral arguments on July 30th the developers and the City spent most of the time talking about the alleged benefits their project and very little time addressing the legal issues before the Court.  The Plaintiffs argued that the defendants were brazenly violating State law and the City Charter's land use provisions. 

“Most of their response, in their argument, had actually nothing to do with the issue at hand," State Senator Tony Avella commented after the hearing last month.

"The issue is that they still have to get the necessary approval from the State Legislature and undergo the City’s land use process before being able to develop on-site. As things stand right now, the developers are illegally taking away parkland and the City is letting them!" the Senator said.

Related Companies and Sterling Equities are attempting to build a 1.4 million square foot mall on 47.5 acres of mapped parkland in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, west of Citi-Field stadium.  This represents the largest public parkland giveaway in recent history. The proposed project would allow the seizing of the public parkland to be used exclusively for non-park purposes without first getting State Alienation approval as is required under the law.  The construction of such a mall on public parkland would be unprecedented. 

The oral arguments also  provided some colorful moments.  Former Chief NY State Supreme Justice Judith Kaye, counsel at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom representing the developers  explicitly inferred that shopping was a "recreational use." 

Plaintiff's include State Senator Tony Avella, City Club of New York, Queens Civic Congress, several members of Willets Point United Inc., and nearby residents/business owners, and NYC Park Advocates. 

"The decision flies in the face of the Public Trust Doctrine and ignores long-established case law, " said NYC Park Advocates, president Geoffrey Croft, a plaintiff in the suit. 

"Equally troubling is it bestows the powers of the former Board of Estimate for  land-use decisions to one person, the Mayor.  This is ironic considering the Board was declared unconstitutional because it violated the "one man, one vote"  provision of the Equal Protection Clause  which was determined to be un-democratic.  This is an issue that every NYC resident and elected official should be greatly concerned with," Croft stated 

"Plaintiffs believe that the decision misunderstands the common law doctrine that prohibits any nonpark use of parkland without the specific and explicit approval of the State Legislature,"   the plaintiff's attorney John Low-Beer said in a statement.  

"The State Legislature, when it passed the 1961 law permitting the construction of Shea Stadium, did not intend to allow construction of a shopping mall.  That law did not allow the construction of anything except a stadium and related facilities on the site.  Plaintiffs will appeal, and believe that this decision will be reversed on appeal."

"It was disheartening to learn of Justice Mendoza's decision today in respect to the Willets West lawsuit," NY State Senator Tony Avella, who represents the 11th Senatorial District, and a plaintiff in the lawsuit stated. 

"We made some very good legal arguments and strongly believe that we are in the right on this issue. I look forward to submitting an appeal alongside the other plaintiffs and feel confident about a future positive outcome."

The proposed  1.4 million square foot retail and entertainment development was approved by the City Planning Commission on Wednesday.

Rendering of the $ 3 billion dollar Willets Point projects.

Read More:

New York Daily News - August 21,  2014 - By Eli Rosenberg

Despite win, Willets Point developers are cautious
Crain's NY Business -  August 21, 2014 - By Joe Anuta 

New York Daily News - August 4, 2014,  By Tony Avella & John Low-Beer 

A Walk In The Park - February 11,  2014 

City Limits - November 1, 2013 - By Patrick Arden

Legal Questions Emerge About Citi Field Mall

City Limits - July 30, 2012 - By Patrick Arden

Man Arrested In Bensonhurst Park Shooting - 4 People Shot in City Parks On Sat.


By Geoffrey Croft

Four people were shot in city parks on Saturday.

Police arrested Ilya Shmaley, 53, for the shooting of a 50-year-old man in broad daylight inside a Brooklyn park, NYC Park Advocates has learned. 

The victim was pistol whipped and shot once in the stomach after a verbal dispute inside Bensonhurst Park at Bath Avenue and Bay 29th Street, about 4:30 p.m. on Saturday.

A portion of  the victims's colon had to be removed due to the bullet wound. He also suffered  internal bleeding and a laceration to the liver.

Shmaley was arrested nearby and charged with nine counts including Attempted Murder,  Assault as well as Harassment and Menacing according to the Brooklyn DA's office.

He is being on $100,000 bond/$50,000 cash bail.

His next court date is August 22nd.


A few hours later 3 people were shot in Thomas Jefferson Park in East Harlem. 

No arrests have be made in that incident.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Comptroller Faults Parks Dept. Mismanagement of Contractors In Street Trees Audit - Public Saftey Concerns, Wasting Tax Dollars

“Tax dollars are wasted, property is damaged and, worst of all, people are sometimes injured or killed. Time and time again in four of the five boroughs, the Parks Department failed to properly manage the work done by private contractors." - City Comptroller Scott Stringer

Controller Scott Stringer’s office audit found that private contractors hired by the Parks Department were pruning Street trees that didn’t need to be while others that needed to be were not pruned at all. The Parks Department provided failed to give contractors lists of trees  that needed to be pruned, or inaccurate lists and they could not produce evidence that the work was inspected. (Photo: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on image to enlarge


By Geoffrey Croft

The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (Parks) has mismanaged the City’s street tree pruning program responsible for maintaining approximately 650,000 street trees citywide, increasing the risk of personal injury and property damage from falling branches, according to an audit released on Sunday by New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer.

The report focused on the parks department’s borough forestry offices mismanagement of contractors who prune street trees.   

“When the Parks Department, with responsibility for 650,000 (street) trees, can’t figure out what the left hand and the right hand is doing, it causes a real danger to the community. It hurts the fiscal condition of our city,” said Stringer, who held a news conference on West 23rd Street near ninth Avenue in Chelsea on Sunday.  The announcement was made near where someone was hit in the forehead by a falling branch in 2011, which resulted in a $4,000 settlement by the city.

“People are injured and sometimes even killed when trees are not properly cared for.”  

 Over the last few years the city had paid $390,000 to $14.8 million to settle claims related to injuries from falling branches Stringer said.  

Manhattan and Staten Island were the two worst-performing boroughs while the comptroller singled out Queens as the only borough that emerged unscathed.

Read/View More

LEADS TO POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS CONDITIONS ON CITY STREETS Parks’ negligence increases the risk that falling limbs will injure people and damage property

Contractors fail to prune trees, put public in danger: report
NY Post - August 17, 2014 - By Kate Briquelet  

WCBS - August 17, 2014  

Sunday, August 17, 2014

3 Shot In Thomas Jefferson Park

Police investigate outside the pool area Saturday night in Thomas Jefferson Park in East Harlem where three men were shot and injured.  (Photo: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on image to enlarge.


By Geoffrey Croft

Three men were shot and injured in an East Harlem park Saturday night.

The men were shot a few minutes before 10 p.m. in Thomas Jefferson Park on 113th Street and First Avenue.

Two men were taken to Harlem Hospital and the other victim was taken to St. Luke's Hospital, all with non-life threatening injuries according to the police. 

Police said no one has been arrested in connection with the shooting.

At one point the police searched the park's pool but say no firearm has been recovered.