Wednesday, October 15, 2008

New Signs in Prospect Park

The Brooklyn Paper just published the following story about Prospect Park. I won't even go into the stupid arguments that the Park Slope whiners present for the sign's unfairness. If you read the comments after the article on the paper's website, note that the football season is extremely short, whereas, the dogs tear up the fields nearly every day of the year.

Prospect Park No Longer Goes To The Dogs
By Emily Lavin for The Brooklyn Paper

New signs have been installed in Prospect Park alerting dog owners that they can no longer take their dogs — even leashed — into many areas of the park. Dog owners are barking mad.

New “No dogs” signs in Prospect Park have unleashed a fury from dog owners who say park officials are arbitrarily enforcing regulations and unfairly targeting their four-legged friends.

The bright blue signs showed up on paths leading to the Long Meadow a few weeks ago, and remind dog walkers that their pets are not allowed on the grass — even on a leash — except during the designated off-leash hours.

The signs mention a $100 fine.

Park Sloper Seth Kamil spoke for many of his fellow dog owners when he suggested that the signs wrongly target canine aficionados while ignoring a bigger problem than the few dog lovers who walk their pets across the Long Meadow.

“The signs are fine, but what angers me is the inconsistent enforcement of the rules and policies,” said Kamil, who owns the Big Onion Walking Tour company. “[Park cops] strictly enforce dog rules, but they turn a blind eye to everything else that takes place in the park.”

“Everything else” includes illegal barbecuing, and high school sports teams and adult leagues whose cleats tear up the grass.

“There is a perception out there that dogs ruin the park. Well, 20 grown men wearing cleats on a muddy Sunday do more damage than any dog ever could,” Kamil said. “Dogs are just an easy target, because, well, nobody likes to get dog poop on his shoe.”

But not every dog owner is in Kamil’s kennel. Community Board 6 Parks Committee chairwoman — and dog owner — Nica Lalli said the new signs “make sense,” given all the complaints she’s received about randomly enforced dog rules in the park.

“The signs let people know that dogs are simply not allowed on the fields,” she said. “It was a shame that the rule was previously unclear, but now that it is a clear rule, we need to follow it. This is a big, multi-use park, with millions of people who come to it. We all need to do our part to keep it fun for everyone.”

Until now, a “grace period” was in effect, said Eugene Patron, a spokesman for the Prospect Park Alliance. But the installation of the “No dogs” signs signals that tickets will now be issued.

“The ticketing is just a natural progression, because now people are expected to know what is and is not allowed,” he said.


Update: Dog owners have routinely torn down leash signs throughout the park, nearly as fast as parks erects them. The sign in the photo has been missing for almost two years.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Park Commissioner coming to Prospect Park

I found out that park commissioner Adrian Benepe is making a special appearance in Prospect Park tomorrow morning (June 7th). The local offleash, lunatic fringe organization, F.I.D.O., is having their monthly "Coffee Bark" meeting on the Long Meadow at 7am. It slipped out that Mr. Benepe is coming to support this group of self-centered dog owners. I recommend that you all come out and hound the commissioner about the ridiculous policy of allowing dogs to run off their leashes in unenclosed areas of city parks. You should ask him why he went from publicly stating on several occasions that unleashed dogs in crowded city parks was a big problem to, unleashed dogs make our parks safer. Maybe his karma will come back to him and he'll be attacked by one of those well adjusted, safe dogs.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Park Crime Statistics

As part of their argument for demanding Department of Health & Mental Hygiene rule changes to permit unleashed dogs in city parks, former NYC Department of Parks & Recreation commissioner Henry Stern, current commissioner Adrian Benepe and Prospect Park administrator Tupper Thomas claimed that allowing dogs to run around unleashed in our parks lowered crime. The public has recently learned that the argument was a complete fabrication with absolutely no basis in fact. I contend that all three city officials lied about the effects of unleashed dogs. The question remains, what would motivate these people to knowingly put the health and safety of park users at risk, as well as, permit increased maintenance and repair costs in parks because of the damage caused by irresponsible pet owners? Why would they agree to such a huge concession just to accomodate a tiny fraction of the city's park-going population? If there are any investigative journalists left in the media, they should take the time to uncover the truth behind this deception.

The following was published in today's "Gotham Gazette":

Tracking Crime in the Parks

by Anne Schwartz
April 2008

For many years, New Yorkers were afraid to go into the parks. Instead of seeing them as an escape from urban stress-a place to exercise, read a book, enjoy a picnic-people viewed the run-down parks as even more dangerous than the streets. Over the past decade and a half, though, the parks have become much safer. Crime rates have dropped citywide, and one park after has been restored. The city has increased maintenance staff and, since 2005, doubled the number of Park Enforcement Patrol officers, who enforce park rules and deter vandalism and crime.

But crime is still a problem, and until recently, the city had no hard data about how many crimes occurred in the parks. In the absence of that kind of solid information, when a terrible crime in a park is splashed across the headlines, like the 2004 murder of drama student Sarah Fox in Inwood Hill Park, it casts a shadow of fear over all the parks.

The New York City Police Department's Compstat computerized crime-tracking program, which analyzes patterns of crime by precinct and uses that information to address problem areas, has been credited with dramatically reducing crime in the city. But Compstat doesn't track crimes in parks separately (except in Central Park, which has its own precinct).

With the passage of Local Law 114 in 2005, the city began gathering data on crime in the parks for the first time. The law, which was introduced by Councilmembers Peter Vallone Jr. and Joseph Addabbo Jr., requires the police to report felonies that take place in parks and make the information available to the City Council. The program was supposed to be phased in over three years, beginning with a pilot project in 20 parks. The first data from the project have just been released in "Tracking Crime in New York City Parks," a report from the advocacy group New Yorkers for Parks.

An Incomplete Picture

For each of the 20 parks, "Tracking Crime" provides the number of felony complaints, in seven different categories, from April 2006 to September 2007. The data examined by the report comes from the four largest (though not necessarily most heavily used) parks in each borough. For comparison's sake, it also includes crime numbers for Central Park, which has been monitoring crime for years.

There was a small increase in crimes in these parks over this time period, but as the report notes, the pilot project covered too few parks, over too short a time period, to allow accurate generalizations about trends citywide. It is also difficult to compare crime rates across parks because the parks department does not collect information on how many people use most of its parks.

Of the 20 parks in the report, Flushing Meadows Park, with 99 felonies, had the highest number of reported crimes. To put that in perspective, however, the report notes that a third of the crimes in 2006 and nearly half in 2007 occurred not on parkland but at the two sports venues within the park, Shea Stadium and the National Tennis Center.

Central Park, with 25 million visitors, had 103 major crimes in 2006, but its crime rate was lower than that of Prospect Park, which had about half as many felonies reported (57) -but a third as many visitors. Two parks, both in Staten Island, had no reported crimes, but one, Fresh Kills Park, is not developed yet.

The tracking data also turned up a significant drop in crime in the colder months, when park usage is lower.

One finding that merits further scrutiny is that some parks had much higher percentages of violent crime than others. Parks where more than 70 percent of the crimes were violent (mostly robbery and felony assault, with a very few rapes and murders) included Prospect Park, Fort Washington Park, Inwood Hill Park, Forest Park and Riverside Park. On the other hand, only 35 percent of the crimes reported in Central Park were violent.

Making Parks Safer

Under the law, the city was supposed to expand the crime-tracking program to a total of 100 parks after one year, 200 parks after two years, and to all parks over one acre in size after three years. It has fallen behind this timetable, and the police department has not said when it would be able to meet it. New Yorkers for Parks called on the city to expand the program to 100 parks immediately and to all parks by 2010.

At a January hearing before the City Council Public Safety committee, the police department said that it still did not have the technology needed to give information on more than the 20 parks in the pilot project. At present, park crimes are still entered into the system manually. Vallone, who chairs the committee, called the lack of progress "disappointing at the very least." "We are trying to get the police to be a little more realistic and track parks that are most heavily used," he said.

The police department Web site posts crime data by precinct, but so far, information about crimes committed in parks is not available online. In its report, New Yorkers for Parks recommended that the parks department post park crime data on its Web site.

Vallone said that there is still a lack of communication between the police and the public. Referring to the discovery of a body in a pond in Flushing Meadows Park, which was part of a vicious crime wave for which two homeless teenagers were eventually arrested, he said, "It took a long time for police to alert the public" to a pattern in the crimes.

Beyond the need for more data, "Tracking Park Crime" focused on ways to keep the park safe. In particular, it called for the city to budget money for enough uniformed Parks Enforcement Patrol officers. They enforce park rules, such as prohibitions against adults using playgrounds, and issue summonses for health, traffic, sanitation and environmental violations. By keeping an eye on the parks, they also deter serious criminal activity. The report also suggested providing safety tips online and on signs in parks.

In his response, Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe said the department would add information on safety practices to its Web site. Noting the importance of the Parks Enforcement Patrol, or PEP, in preventing crime, he said, "At the height of the season, we have over 800 uniformed staff in the parks, including full-time and seasonal PEP and Rangers, and fixed post enforcement officers. " He said that the parks department works closely with the police and has been reaching out to community organizations in an effort to design safer parks and deter crime.