“Community Outrage” Over Replacement of Public Park Enforcement Officers With Private Security at Battery Park City

Sam Hendricks former Battery Park City Parks Officer before privatization
Former Battery Park City PEP officer Sam Hendricks worked there during 9/11 attacks and Hurricanes Sandy and Irene

The DC 37 Blog offers an overview of the recent public-private tussle at Battery Park City involving the Battery Park City Authority, a “public-private partnership.” DC 37 is “New York City’s largest public employee union, [and] represents 121,000 members and 50,000 retirees.”

Since 1992, Battery Park City had contracted with the NYC Parks Department to hire Parks Enforcement Patrol (PEP) officers (members of DC 37) to oversee the 92-acre space.

The private — and secret — decision (they often go hand-in-hand), to oust the PEP officers and replace with private security, is one that has been met with vocal disapproval from the community and elected officials.

At a November 2013 City Council Parks Committee hearing on oversight of private conservancies at public parks, a Union representative stated that at the privatized parks, union workers are typically not employed by conservancies and BIDs, citing the Central Park Conservancy as one particular offender.

DC 37 Blog: Privatization of security at Battery Park City provokes community outrage

In a move that flouts a community’s repeated demands to keep city Parks Enforcement Patrol Officers at Battery Park City, the authority ousted all PEP Officers and put AlliedBarton private security guards in their place.

The move set off a firestorm with residents, politicians and the union who unitedly say, “Bring PEP Officers back!”

“It’s outrageous that the board would be so flagrant as to ignore the community and elected officials, and jeopardize safety at Battery Park City with AlliedBarton rent-a-cops, whose response to danger is ‘Do nothing!’” said Joe Puleo, president of Local 983, which represents the PEP Officers.

At a December meeting, the authority led residents to believe the tony community would continue to have a security force of PEP Officers and private “safety ambassadors.”

But chair Dennis Mehiel announced Jan. 30 on the authority’s website that, “PEP Officers were cut in response to community feedback.”

“The authority is both deceitful (about the PEP contract) and uninformed about the community’s wishes and needs,” residents wrote in an online petition to Gov. Andrew Cuomo on democracy4BPC.org.

Community Board 1 voted unanimously to keep PEP Officers. And state Sen. Daniel L. Squadron, U.S.  Rep. Jerrold Nadler, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Assembly member Deborah Glick and City Council member Margaret Chin wrote Mehiel asking the board to table requests for proposals for private security “until the community’s concerns are met.”

Mehiel ignored their demands.

The authority refused to renew its longstanding $2.5 million contract with the city Parks Dept. for PEP Officers. Instead, it inked a $2.1 million deal with AlliedBarton, whose employees are not authorized to make arrests or issue summonses.  As sworn Peace Officers, PEP officers have the power to make arrests and issue summonses.

In late December, the community’s worse fears were realized. AlliedBarton bungled an assault on two teens near the Battery Park ball fields. Security called their supervisors– not NYPD– and delayed emergency help for almost 30 minutes, witnesses said. Both teens were beaten and robbed; one was unconscious and hospitalized with head injuries.  The incident and how it was mishandled by AlliedBarton and the authority angered the community.

The rest of the piece by Diane S. Williams can be found here.

At Washington Square Park, it was stated recently by WSP Administrator Sarah Neilson at a Community Board meeting that the PEP officers at the park, Parks Department employees, are paid for by New York University which provides an annual amount to cover their presence.

At Battery Park City, thus far, the private, secret decision to oust the PEP officers has not been reversed, despite community pressure.

Related: Battery Park City Authority Cuts All Park Enforcement Patrol Officers via DNAinfo

Photo: Clarence Elie-Rivera

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