Top officials met for an inter-agency meeting this week to try to figure out a game plan for dealing with the violence, which has badly tarnished the massive new pool’s reputation in the weeks since it reopened following a splashy $50 million renovation.
“We had a big meeting yesterday, I believe it was, with police and [the] Parks Department to make sure that we’re doing everything we can,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Friday during his weekly radio show with WOR’s John Gambling, when asked about the violence.
“We will not tolerate this,” Bloomberg said. The mayor's office did not immediately return calls for comment about what had been discussed at the meeting and whether any new strategies will be put in place.
The mayor had previously dismissed concerns about violence at the pool, chiding a DNAinfo.com New York reporter at a press conference for asking whether any extra precautions were being taken after the first incident.
“We're going to put a cop next to every lifeguard, would that help you?” he said. “Come on, think about this.”
Gambling said he was shocked by the recent incidents, which have included a brawl that sent a cop to the hospital after he was punched in the face, numerous arrests, thefts and security complaints.
“It’s just outrageous,” he said. “And I haven’t heard anybody really kind of get up on arms about it."
Deputy Inspector Terence Hurson, commanding officer of the 94th Precinct, told DNAinfo.com New York that police have been surprised by the degree of violence at the pool and have dramatically stepped up their presence, hoping to stave off future incidents.
“We anticipated there’d be problems,” he said. “To this degree we didn’t.
“We’re praying for no more,” he said.
In the meantime, he said that earlier plans to scale down police presence at the pool have been scrapped.
When the pool first opened last month, he said, just two cops were assigned to each shift. After the first incident, when a a lifeguard was attacked, the number was doubled to four. Then, when an officer was punched in the face less than a week later, the number was increased again, with 16 cops now stationed either inside or outside the pool each day.
“We were contemplating lowering it Tuesday,” Hurson said. But after the most recent arrests on Tuesday evening, “That’s staying for now,” he said.
They kept their posts on Friday morning, when police were the only people spotted standing in line for the pool thanks to the rainy weather, which kept swimmers away.
Still, Hurson said he believes concerns about the pool have been overblown by the media. He noted that, in addition to being far larger than the average pool, many of the recently reported incidents did not specifically have to do with the pool or happened in the adjacent park, such as the stabbing earlier this month.
The three men arrested Tuesday night for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, he said, were “bad men” with past records, while the two teenage girls arrested for allegedly assaulting a 13-year-old had already left the pool when the innocent occurred.
“All city pools have things happen,” he said, stressing that the “Parks [Department] is very on top of it."
Bloomberg also made the case that, no matter what, there will always be some bad apples who cause trouble.
“You’ve got to remember that teenagers misbehave and there’s some events at all pools, so let’s not just rush,” he said. “Part of it is just, once it becomes fashionable, then the kids rush to do it.”
No matter what, he said, the city has no intention of shutting the pool in response to the violence.
“Do we want to close the pool? Of course not. Kids need a place to go,” he said.
“Lets’ not forget, most kids don’t misbehave. Most kids follow the rules. Most parents don’t let their kids defecate in the pool. But it’s a big world out there. And we’re going to keep working on it," he said.
A Parks Department spokeswoman declined to confirm or comment on Thursday's meeting with police.