HARLEM — A woman was sexually assaulted in Morningside Park early Sunday evening, police said.
The NYPD is investigating the attack, which occurred around 6 p.m. on the park's upper path at 118th Street, leading police from the 26th Precinct to cordon off the area Monday morning.
"It was a sexual assault," police sources said. "Witnesses are currently being interviewed."
The female victim was walking in the park near 118th Street when she was approached by the suspect, according to an alert issued by Columbia University. After a short conversation, the man sexually assaulted her, the alert said.
Brad Taylor, a board member and former president of Friends of Morningside Park, said the incident was alarming because it occurred while it was still light outside.
"The NYPD is generally doing a good job, but the park has so many hidden areas," he said of the park. "What would help is a beat cop or someone who walks the upper paths. We would like to see more of a presence."
The area around the park has come under increased scrutiny in recent months following violent incidents there this summer.
On June 2, a teenager was shot at the 118th Street playground in what police said was a dispute between three rival teen "crews" over a girl. Two suspects were arrested and charged in that case.
Then on June 30, a man was shot across the street from the 116th Street Playground on Morningside Avenue in what police said was a drug-related incident. An uninvolved bystander was also struck in the shooting.
After area parents organized and demanded more park patrols, the Parks Department said a Parks Enforcement Patrol officer paid for by Columbia University would be placed at the park. Friends of Morningside Park is also trying to raise money to place video cameras in the park.
Advocates have long said that uptown parks receive fewer PEP officers than wealthier parks downtown.
Taylor said sightings of the newly assigned PEP officer have been scarce. The Parks Department referred questions about the incident to the NYPD.
In addition, Friends of Morningside Park have requested that security officers from Columbia posted at a booth near 116th Street patrol the upper paths.
"That area is not well covered," Taylor said. "There are not a lot of eyes in that area. That's an area we'd like to see a lot of cameras."
The suspect in Sunday's incident was described as a man in his 20s and standing 5-foot-8 inches, according to the Columbia alert. He was wearing jeans, a black skull cap and dark hooded sweatshirt.