Saturday, April 23, 2016

Man Robbed In Washington Square Park At Gun Point


By Geoffrey Croft

Police apprehended a couple wanted in connection of a robbery in Washington Square Park yesterday, NYC Park Advocates has learned.

Police responded to a 911 call of a man with a gun at 9:20 a.m. After a brief foot pursuit near LaGuardia Pl., they caught a male and a female suspects attempting to flee.

Ramell Huggings, 25, and Sakema Daniels, 26 were arrested, both Manhattan residents. Police discovered an imitation pistol in his pants pocket during the search.

The victim said the male suspect threatened him with a gun which he said the assailant had in his hand. The victim, a Bronx resident was robbed of $18 dollars.
During the incident Huggings said he was going to shoot at the officers, according to police.

While in custody, Huggins attempted to kick out the window of the patrol car. 

Higgins was charged with Criminal Possession of A Weapon, Robbery, Resisting Arrest, Escape, Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance.

Daniels was charged with Robbery.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Police Arrest Man With Knife & Warrants In Queens Playground


By Geoffrey Croft

Police arrested a man carrying a gravity knife in a playground NYC Park Advocates has learned.

While on patrol on Tuesday night police noticed Gary Caldwell, 20,  trespassing in Dutch Kills Playground at 9:50pm. after park hours.  

Upon further investigation police discovered he had a gravity knife in his pants pocket and two open warrants including one for Criminal Possession of Marijuana. 

In 2015 Caldwell was arrested for Criminal Possession of Marijuana, he also has numerous sealed arrests. 

Caldwell, who resides on 12th Street near the Queensbridge Houses, was charged with Criminal Possession of a Weapon and Failure to Comply With A Sign. 

The playground is located on 28 St., Crescent St. bet. 37 Ave. and 36 Ave. within the confines of the 114th Pct.  

The incident occurred less than a day after the Parks Department held a scoping meeting at P.S. 112 to hear ideas on how to spend $4.5 million on a much needed park renovation.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Attempted Rape Of Jogger In Prospect Park

The suspect is described as black and 6 feet tall with light facial hair and was wearing a black jogging suit at the time of the incident.
The police released a sketch and video surveillance of a suspect wanted in the sexual attack of a 23-year-old jogger in Prospect Park at knife point early Wednesday morning.


By Geoffrey Croft

A 23-year-old woman jogging in Prospect Park was attacked at knife point.

The terrifying incident occurred on Wednesday morning around 5:15 a.m. in the park near the Garfield Place and the Prospect Park West entrance.

The man came from behind and threw her to the ground. He displayed a knife and told the woman he was going to rape her, according to police.

The woman fought back and struggled with her attacker until he eventually gave up.

The woman was taken to New York Methodist Hospital where she needed stitches to close the wound to her right index finger she received during the assault. 

Police have flooded the area with wanted posters.

The assailant is described as a black male between 5’10” and 6′ tall
180 to 190 pounds with short hair and a goatee. 

He was last seen wearing a black t-shirt and black pants with white lettering on one pant leg and wearing black sneakers with white bottoms. 

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS. or for Spanish 1-888-57-PISTA (74782) 

FBI Probing Horse Carriage Ban Effort - Again

Mayor de Blasio addressing the media on February 4th after his bill, which would have restricted carriage horses to Central Park as well as had tax payers foot the bill to relocate the horse carriage industry into a Parks Department owned building in the park, collapsed.  

For the second time in two years the Federal Bureau is investigating financial issues and its influence related to an effort to ban horse-drawn carriages in Central Park. Federal and state investigations are looking into Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Campaign fundraising operations and are examining the efforts of NYCLASS, a politically connected group that donated funds to a Mayoral controlled nonprofit Campaign for One New York, in its effort to ban carriage rides.

In 2014 the FBI questioned ex-Council Speaker Christine Quinn and others in its probe into Mayor de Blasio’s flip-flop on the carriage ban.

The Mayor’s horse trade deal quickly fell apart in February after a particularly embarrassing City Council hearing on the issue. (Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) 


Coordinated federal and state investigations into Mayor Bill de Blasio’s fundraising operations are examining efforts by a politically connected group to ban horse carriages in New York City, people familiar with the matter said, according to an article in The Wall Street Journal.  
Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat, has pushed for more than two years to ban the horse carriages, saying it is inhumane for them to traverse Manhattan’s busy streets. To date, Mr. de Blasio has been unable to muster support in the City Council to fulfill his 2013 campaign pledge to ban the carriages. 
The Mayor’s efforts to ban horse-drawn carriages quickly fell apart in February after the carriage license owners voted not to support Teamster's Local 553 deal with the Mayor and an embarrassing City Council hearing on the issue.

The offices of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. are considering, among other matters, whether fundraising efforts circumvented state election laws and whether donors were promised or given official benefits, people familiar with the matter said.
Karen Hinton, a spokeswoman for the mayor, said, “Mayor de Blasio holds his administration to the highest standards of integrity. We will cooperate fully with the investigations.
The two donors behind the proposed horse-carriage ban, Wendy Neuand Steven Nislick, haven’t been accused of any wrongdoing. A spokesman for Ms. Neu and Mr. Nislick and their anti-horse-carriage organization, NYCLASS, said the group was focused on fighting for animal rights and would answer any questions investigators may have if contacted. 
“That’s their only agenda and one worth fighting for,” he said.
Ms. Neu and Mr. Nislick gave more than $100,000 to the Campaign for One New York, a nonprofit that was run by the mayor’s allies and supported Mr. de Blasio’s policy and political agenda, records show. They also financed an independent campaign against former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a rival to Mr. de Blasio in the 2013 Democratic mayoral primary.
The Daily News reported in 2014 that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was looking into whether donations to the group behind the carriage ban were being directed to an organization attacking Ms. Quinn.
In an interview earlier this year, Ms. Neu and Mr. Nislick said they gave money to the Campaign for One New York because they supported Mr. de Blasio’s broader policy agenda, including universal prekindergarten. 
The probe of the mayor’s fundraising activities overlaps with separate federal and state probes into alleged corruption at the NYPD and the lifting of city deed restrictions on a Manhattan health-care facility. Those investigations also involve donors to Mr. de Blasio. 
The examination of the efforts to ban horse carriages is connected to the broader inquiry that has focused on mayoral fundraising and the Campaign for One New York, which was disbanded earlier this year. The organization accepted unlimited donations from people and groups, including real-estate developers and unions with business before the city.
Since becoming mayor, Mr. de Blasio has aggressively pursued his pledge to ban the horse carriages, despite polls showing New Yorkers oppose the ban. 
The privately owned stables on Manhattan’s West Side where the horses are currently kept are worth millions of dollars. Mr. Nislick, a real-estate developer, said he isn’t interested in purchasing the stables. In the interview earlier this year, he said he wouldn’t take them if they were given to him. 
Mr. Nislick and Ms. Neu have met with Mr. de Blasio at least four times since he took office and have enjoyed close access to top members of his staff, according to records and people familiar with the matter.

The mayor’s pursuit of the horse-carriage ban became a point of frustration among Mr. de Blasio’s aides, many of whom opposed the fight. At an annual political dinner earlier this month, the mayor poked fun at the controversy; in a video, a man in a horse mask chased Mr. de Blasio around City Hall.
Mr. de Blasio proposed a bill this year that would have moved the horses’ stables inside Central Park, a plan that would have cost $25 million in taxpayer funds to build new stables. The bill would have also limited the number of horses allowed to work in the park. 
The plan began falling apart as Mr. de Blasio traveled earlier this year in Iowa to campaign for Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton. Two days after he returned, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito pulled the bill from the council’s agenda, saying it had lost support of the Teamsters union that represented the horse-carriage drivers.
Mr. de Blasio was privately furious, according to people close to him. He showed up to City Hall as horse-carriage drivers celebrated on the steps, sitting in his car for about 15 minutes as he decided what to say. Several weeks later, he participated in a phone call with the donors about this issue, according to city lobbying disclosures.
The investigation is also exploring the role real-estate donors played in the mayor’s 2014 efforts to bring the state Senate under Democratic control, according to people familiar with the matter. The authorities’ interest in the state campaigns was reported Tuesday by the New York Times.
Investigators are considering, among other matters, whether the Campaign for One New York asked real-estate interests and others to donate to campaigns outside the city in a way that deliberately eluded election laws, according to a person familiar with the matter. 
It is a felony in New York to solicit or coordinate expenditures in connection with a candidate’s nomination or election with the purpose of evading contribution limits.

Read More:

The Wall Street Journal  - April 21, 2016 - By Rebecca Davis O’Brien and Josh Dawsey

A Walk In The Park - February 4, 2016 - By Geoffrey Croft 

New York Daily News  - April 27, 2014, - By  Greg B. Smith, Corinne Lestch, Larry Mcshane

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

200 Lb. Concrete Slab Falls From Van Wyck Expressway Into Parks Dept. Parking Lot

A  2 and a 1/2 foot section of a crumbling support column that holds up the VanWyck Expressway fell into a Parks Department parking lot in Flushing Meadow-Corona Park. The parking facility is used by thousands of people daily.  (Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on images to enlarge.

Late yesterday afternoon New York State DOT sent personnel to investigate. The agency says the two hundred pound debris is not from the Van Wyck overpass and are speculating that it was illegally dumped.


By Geoffrey Croft

A two-hundred pound slab of concrete feel fell thirty feet from under the Van Wyck Expressway into a Parks Department parking lot narrowly missing parked cars and park goers, NYC Park Advocates has learned.

Parks Department personnel at the Aquatic Center were alerted by a frightened park patron yesterday afternoon that a piece of the support column had broken off and come crashing down into the parking lot. 

The reinforced concrete structures support the steel beams that hold up the 40-foot-high viaduct which was constructed between 1947 and 1963.

Dozens of sections under the elevated viaduct are severally deteriorated. Exposed rusted rebar and crumbling concrete sections are easily spotted along the more than half long mile section of the NY State DOT property.

Thousands of people park in the dangerous facility daily including park patrons using the aquatic center/Ice Arena, the Al Oerter Recreation Center, along with neighborhood businesses and area residents. 

The incident occurred near stanchion # 73 located between the Flushing Meadows Corona Park’s Aquatic Center/Ice Arena and the Al Oerter Recreation Center at Meridian Rd and East Rd & 131st St.  in Flushing Queens. 

The US Open also uses the parking facility. 

“If that would have landed on someone they would have been dead,”  said a Parks Department employee. 

Faded spray paint marking off structural deficiencies can be seen at multiple locations.  

“They clearly marked off areas that need to be repaired but it looks like that was done a few years ago,” said a Parks Department employee.

The two-hundred pound slab of concrete and metal came crashing down within inches of a parked vehicle.  Thousands of people use the parking facility daily including park patrons and neighborhood businesses and area residents. 

"I guess they’re waiting for something to happen.”

Park employees say this is not the first time sections have fallen.

“Lots of the columns that have deteriorated pretty badly,  pieces have fallen all over the place. Park patrons pick up the smaller pieces and put them on the grass because they don’t want to run over them,“ an employee said.

Due to the overall condition of neglect, it's hard to imagine that the structural integrity has not been severally compromised by the defered mainainence.

"This is really scary," said a mother who was parked near the incident.  The woman had just exited the ice rink with her two children, an eight-year-old and two month-old daughter.  

"They are not maintaining it. " 

The dangerous infrastructure isn’t the only issue according to several park employees.  

The poorly lite facility is also popular with thieves stealing car parts. 

“Almost every day someone complains about getting ripped off,” said a law enforcement source.

"The city has also known about this for a long time.”  

By mid afternoon the area had been cordoned off with caution tape. 

Friday, April 8, 2016

Diller Island Pier 55 Lawsuit Dismissed

The Hudson River Park Trust is proposing to build a $ 170 million dollar park and entertainment complex between 13/14th Street in the West Village. The Trust may have finally found a solution for the crumbling Pier 54 delema - get a billionaire to foot the bill and exclude the public from having any say.  The proposed Pier 55 project would be built between the soon-to-be-demolished Pier 54 and the already demolished Pier 56. 

The Barry Diller-Diane von Furstenberg Family Foundation will contribute $ 130 million dollars to design and build the off-shore pier then lease it from the park trust for 20 years.   The city and state are contributing $39 million for construction.  The nonprofit Pier55 Inc. will run the pier’s programming and fund day-to-day operations. The crumbling Pier 54, which juts 875 feet into the Hudson River will be demolished and replaced by a 2.4 acre off-shore park and performance spaces according to the plan.    (Photo: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates)


By Geoffrey Croft

The Hudson River Park Trust and Barry Diller's secret plan to build a massive park and entertainment complex passed it first legal hurdle on Thursday when State Supreme Court  Justice Joan B. Lobis dismissed the lawsuit ruling the 
claims were "without merit."

"It would appear that a significant purpose of maintaining event spaces in the Park is to generate funds for the ongoing upkeep of the Park, which is surely a park purpose,"  Judge Lobis bizarrely ruled.

The complaint was filed by the City Club last summer New York Supreme Court alleging that HRPT violated the Public Trust Doctrine, illegally alienated public parkland,  and "presided over a rushed and secretive process, prejudiced by outdated analyses and false comparisons that failed to comport with the basic requirements of New York State and New York City environmental laws," according to the suit.

Rob Buchanan, Co-Chair of the Citizens Advisory Committee of the NY/NJ Harbor & Estuary Program,  and Tom Fox, co-founder of  Friends of Hudson River Park, and former president of HRPT are named plaintiffs in the suit.

The $170 million plan was finally announced in November 2014 after negotiating with Mr. Diller and on Furstenberg for two years according to court documents.

Shortly after the announcement a confused Madelyn Wills, president and CEO of the Hudson River Park Trust attempted to get around a reporter's question regarding whether the deal was done behind closed doors.  Ms. Wills misrepresented and claimed that the issue was discussed with many in the community including elected officials and contradicts herself all in a matter of seconds in the brief interview.

"The funding of this, although discussed with many in the community and many electeds was obviously a funding agreement is (sic) done not in the public…." Ms. Wills told WCBS.    

"The Trust also said they kept and elected officials and community leaders apprized during the process," WCBS's Dick Brennan reported.

Area representative State Assemblymember Deborah Glick had a very different view on that subject according to the New York Times.  

" is deeply disturbing that the trust failed until now to disclose what it is doing,” she said in the November 17, 2014 article.

Elected officials weren't the only ones left in the dark.  Several members of the Trust's own Advisory Council also expressed not knowing as well.

This rendering of the proposed Pier 55, which will be built between the soon-to-be-demolished Pier 54 and the already demolished Pier 56, calls for undulating lawns and an amphitheater.
Proposed Diller Island (Renderings: Heatherwick Studio) 

Read More:

$ 170 Mil. Secret Pier 55 Deal: Barry Diller To Create Park & Entertainment Complex
A Walk In The Park - November 17, 2014 - By Geoffrey Croft