More cops, cameras should control unruly crowds in Brooklyn Bridge Park, president says
5 million visitors expected this summer
Officials at Brooklyn Bridge Park say this summer season will be safer and saner season this summer thanks to stepped up police enforcement and a rash of new surveillance cameras that hope to prevent the outbreaks of mayhem that have marred the waterfront oasis in years past.
Park President Eric Landau told the Brooklyn Eagle that more police, more park patrol officers and the installation of security cameras should go a long way toward preventing brawls, robbery and even gunfire.
Last April’s partial evacuation, caused by an unruly flash mob, was the last major outrage to hit Brooklyn Bridge Park. But it was a wake-up call. Since the incident, Landau said, the park enjoyed a “wonderfully successful and busy year.” Landau was appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio to lead the park. His tenure started after that final Spring Break rumble.
Landau said the park has 15 Park Enforcement Patrol officers and three sergeants on staff, and will be adding eight more during the height of the season. Last year there were just 10 park officers.
“They’re the eyes and ears of the park,” he said.
A security camera capable of rotating 360 degrees was installed last year on Pier 2, he said. And four more cameras were installed on the Ample Hills building at Pier 5. Pier 2 has been the scene of many social media-driven disturbances in the past.
Park-related violence, including muggings, vandalism and robbery, has also been reported on Joralemon Street and other routes into the park in and around Brooklyn Heights.
After a number of unruly outbreaks in years past, the Brooklyn Heights Association and the Willowtown Association called on park officials, the NYPD and the community to work together.
On Tuesday, members of the 84th Precinct Community Council were told the precinct was assigning additional police to the park during the warm weather. The precinct is expecting eight new officers in the coming weeks, arriving before the busy season really takes off.
That staffing matches the NYPD’s response after last April’s evacuation. At the time, Capt. Roberto Melendez said the precinct would increase the number of cops to about three sergeants and 24 officers a day with seven-day coverage, with additional help from surrounding precincts when necessary, including a counterterrorism unit to protect the ferry.
“Are we going to have less crime than last year?” Melendez said last year. “We’re going to try.”
On Thursday, Heights Association Executive Director Peter Bray told the Eagle that the 84th Precinct “has been very responsive.”
“Captain Melendez [said staffing] will remain at last season’s high staffing levels,” Bray added.
Bray said Melendez told him that the NYPD arrested three juveniles last week “who may be connected to robberies of individuals that occurred once they left the park.” The Eagle has reached out to NYPD for more information about these arrests.
Since the arrests took place, “No further incidents have occurred,” Bray said.
Willowtown: Connecting from Montague Street might help
The Willowtown Association has frequently complained about violent incidents on quiet Joralemon Street, where unruly nighttime crowds of park-goers return to the subways.
There are only four access points to the park: Atlantic Avenue, Joralemon Street, Squibb Bridge and Old Fulton Street. Joralemon Street residents said their fears of an increase in noise, crowds and crime have borne fruit since the park opened.
More than 5 million visitors are expected to pack into the popular swath of green on the Brooklyn waterfront this summer.
“The sheer volume of people coming to the park is hard to regulate, so the bulk of the crowd control falls on the 84th Precinct, who give much of their summer resources to maintaining order in Brooklyn Bridge Park,” Linda DeRosa, president of the Willowtown Association, told the Eagle on Friday.
“As in past seasons, we are not about trying to control park activities, it’s about expecting respect for us in the park’s surrounding communities,” DeRosa added.
DeRosa said the city needs to divert some of the thousands of park visitors from residential Joralemon Street to commercial Montague Street.
“More access points into Brooklyn Bridge Park is key, so we have been advocating for a connection to [the park] from Montague Street as part of the BQE cantilever rebuild project,” she said. DeRosa said the idea “has gained a lot of traction.”
Here are some of the major brawls and other incidents reported in the park from the present time going back to 2015.
– Last April’s extremely large, disorderly crowd at Pier 2 prompted police to evacuate sections of the park.
– A similar evacuation took place on May 11, 2016, after hundreds of young people gathered at Pier 2 and a brawl reportedly broke out.
– Another fight broke out on May 9, 2016 residents said.
– Yet another dispersal took place during Spring Break week 2016. Citing large crowds, violent incidents and death threats on social media, police closed down Pier 2 on April 27.
– One person was assaulted on Pier 2 on Monday, April 25, 2016, according to an NYPD spokesperson. No arrests were made.
– On April 15, 2016, police arrested two men following the outbreak of gunfire. The shots scattered crowds enjoying the basketball courts and other exercise facilities on Pier 2. Two men were arrested.
– A 55-year-old registered sex offender fatally shot his ex-girlfriend after she left work near Pier 6 in June 2016.
– Gunfire in Brooklyn Bridge Park: Two arrested following Pier 2 melee in April 2015.
– Gang bound for park basketball in Brooklyn arrested after Joralemon Street rampage in August 2015.
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