Sunday, July 25, 2010

Flushing Meadows-Corona Park No Longer has its Own Police Patrol Due to Staffing Problems: Sources - Lisa Colangelo - NY Daily News

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NYPD pulls its dedicated patrol out of popular Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, a move prompted by staffing problems, sources say.

Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, a popular and busy spot for people looking for relief from steamy summer streets, will no longer have its own police patrol, Queens News has learned.

Instead, cops patrolling other parts of the 110th Precinct and borough task force units will keep an eye on activity in the sprawling 1,255-acre park.

The dedicated detail was pulled due to staffing woes at the 110th Precinct, sources said.

City police officials downplayed the impact of the change, saying the park will still have a strong law enforcement presence.

"The park is being patrolled by task force officers along with the Conditions Unit of the 110th Precinct and the Citi Field detail," the NYPD said in a statement.

The Conditions Unit monitors quality-of-life issues.

But civic leaders and elected officials are not convinced and said this is another example of Queens residents being shortchanged.

"While we recognize that police resources are limited, there is no question that the best deterrent to crime in the park is a uniformed officer on patrol," said Queens Borough President Helen Marshall.

"This is a cause for concern," said Patricia Dolan, head of the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park Conservancy. "There are huge numbers of people there every week. Are they walking away from Riverside Park, Central Park or Prospect Park? Of course not."

Police sources said there may be fewer patrol cars going through at night when the park is closed.

"They still have cars on patrol during the day," a source said. "The parks are covered."

City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr., who heads the Public Safety Committee, said this shows the city needs more police officers in all of its precincts.

"We all hear about high-profile crimes in parks, but this is a quality-of-life situation," said Vallone (D-Astoria). "There are all sorts of things that have to be addressed in parks, such as loud radios and illegal barbecues."

Marshall and others said the problem is exacerbated by the low numbers of Parks Enforcement Patrol, or PEP, officers available in Queens.

Joe Puleo, vice president DC 37 Local 983, which represents PEP officers, said only a handful are available to work the 7,000 acres of parks across the borough.

Most of the PEP officers have been assigned to the city's packed pools and beaches.

Puleo also said Flushing Meadows-Corona Park's complicated geography - bisected and encircled by highways - further makes the case for a dedicated law enforcement presence.

"This is a big park," he said. "We're also dealing with injured people and lost children."

Parks Department officials said they had not been told of any change in NYPD coverage at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.