Brooklyn Heights

OPINION: Response to ‘Cops Shut Down Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 2’

May 4, 2016 By Hannah Kirshner For Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Police closed down Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 2 last Wednesday after large crowds, violent incidents and death threats on Facebook. Photo by Mary Frost

To the Editors:

Your article “Cops Shut Down Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 2 Following Violence, Threats,” published online on April 28 and in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle April 29 print edition, gives a lot of weight to the comments of Linda DeRosa and the Willowtown Association. I would like to counter that with another point of view.

I live nearby and use Brooklyn Bridge Park almost every day. As a freelancer, I have the luxury of taking an afternoon break most days to go roller skating at Pier 2. One of my favorite things about the park is how many people of different religions, races and nationalities are there enjoying it every day: this is the New York I love.

I noticed, beginning a few weeks ago, that Pier 2 was absolutely packed with teenagers, and it warmed my heart to see them all enjoying something so wholesome. It didn’t interfere with my good time, and in fact their silly antics — engaging me in joking conversation, dancing along to songs at the roller rink or at the picnic tables where I barbecued with my friends on another evening — enhanced it. But it seemed the police were eager to herd them all out of there from the first day the park was crowded.

I’m glad our police officers and the park management take threats seriously, and I’m glad to see the police keep a strong presence in the park. I sometimes bike through alone at night, and thanks to their patrols, it never feels like a creepy place. However, I wonder whether the crowds of kids in the park really posed a danger to the public, or if it was necessary to keep them away.

Let’s be frank: most of those kids were black, and, sadly, that freaks some people out.

The complaints of the Willowtown Association come across as thinly veiled racism. We all have biases (shaped by our lack of interaction with people who don’t look like us, by media stereotypes and all sorts of forces in the culture); it doesn’t mean we are bad people, but we have to examine those biases and challenge ourselves.

In your article, Linda DeRosa complained that “Pier 2 is becoming a hangout, and that’s why Brooklyn Bridge Park needs to step in. These kids are not there to play basketball.” What exactly is wrong with kids hanging out in a park, chatting and goofing around with their friends?

Scientific research shows us that teenagers have poor executive function (let’s remember we were all there once), and unfortunately, some fights and bad decisions are not surprising. Of course, the park management and police need to step in in those instances. But let’s not punish everyone who looks like them (not to mention other park users). I can’t imagine a better place for kids to spend their time than in a bright, wide-open space, getting fresh air and socializing (aka building important skills). And I am glad to share the park with them and everyone else who enjoys it.

 

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Sincerely,

Hannah Kirshner


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