Residents Sound Off on Chess Player Crackdown in Inwood Hill Park

By Carla Zanoni on November 18, 2010 7:17am | Updated on November 18, 2010 7:38am

One of the seven men ticketed by the NYPD teaches chess to a new pupil in this photo.
One of the seven men ticketed by the NYPD teaches chess to a new pupil in this photo.
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Jackie Rodriguez-Jones

By Carla Zanoni

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

INWOOD — A day after news broke that the NYPD ticketed seven men for playing chess in a restricted area of Inwood Hill Park, the Internet erupted with reactions to the incident.

Some parents expressed outrage over the NYPD's actions and vowed to change park policy to make the chess tables available to everyone.

"Tonight we strategize: get our #Inwood Chess Players back to their tables. Petition Parks Dept. Keep local #traditions alive!" wrote local blogger and parent Zaida Grunes on her Twitter feed.

"Can't walk the streets or parks of #inwood safely, but at least #NYPD is protecting us from the chess player menace," Tweeted Inwood resident Brad Aaron.

The NYPD's 34th precinct came under particular fire for focusing their attentions on chess players who have taught local children how to play the game, while ignoring or downgrading a rise in more serious crimes in the area.

Some of the most recent attacks include a mugging of a mother who was walking with her 17-month-old child in Inwood Hill Park.

But others from the area said the NYPD's crackdown in the park, while poorly handled, signals exactly the kind of increased police presence that the community needs.

"Hold on a second... just last week everyone is begging for additional patrols and for the police to clean up the parks to prevent the mugging of a mother and her child outside a playground," a commenter by the name of "Seaman Drake" wrote on DNAinfo.com. "(Now) you're protesting aggressive policing of the very park you just requested be aggressively policed!"

Commenter "Testimony" agreed, writing, "This is awful that the resident(s) are upset with the police for doing their job. God bless NYPD for doing their outstanding work. Good call on their part. I wish I could say the same about the parents."

The men were playing chess in Inwood Hill Park's Emerson Playground, where there are stone tables for playing chess and backgammon, around 2 p.m. on Oct. 20 when they were ticketed for "fail(ing) to comply with signs. The area has a sign posted that restricts access to adults who are accompanied by a child.

Yacahudah
Yacahudah "Y.A." Harrison playing chess with a neighborhood child this summer on the table with a chessboard inlay inside Emerson Playground at Inwood Hill Park.
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DNAinfo/Carla Zanoni

They're due in criminal court on Dec. 28.

A spokeswoman for the 34th precinct said Wednesday night that the precinct contiinued to stand behind their decision to issue the summonses.

Sources said the precinct was bombarded with phone calls all day on Wednesday after DNAinfo story broke the news of the summonses, and that it was the main subject of conversation inside the precinct house. 

The chess tables at Inwood Hill Park overlook the playground.
The chess tables at Inwood Hill Park overlook the playground.
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DNAinfo/Carla Zanoni

Meanwhile, one Inwood business owner took advantage of the uproar to plug his store as an alternative location for area chess players.

"The new and improved Inwood tea bar and chess lounge will re-open Monday, Nov. 22," Jason Devereaux, owner of the popular clothing and tea salon Nostylgia on Dyckman Street, wrote on his Facebook page. "All chess players are welcome and no summonses will be issued!!!"


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