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City Has Remained Silent About Isham Park Security Camera, Residents Say

By Nigel Chiwaya | June 19, 2013 12:45pm
  Isham Park's camera only records for five hours a day while the park is closed, prompting security fears.
Isham Park Security Camera
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INWOOD — Frustrated local leaders worried about crime in uptown parks are pressing the city for answers about a security camera in Isham Park that only captures video for only four hours a day.

Residents have called on the Parks Department at several community board meetings to explain why the popular park only reportedly records between the hours of 1 a.m. and 5 a.m while the park is closed.

Their requests for information have fallen on deaf ears, critics say.

"There's no new information," said resident Susan Ryan, who has been pushing the Parks Department for answers. "It would be laughable if the issue wasn't so serious."

Geoffrey Croft of the green space watchdog New York City Parks Advocates added that advocates and residents have repeatedly been ignored.

"We've asked them seven questions and they've answered half of one question," added . "There's just zero accountability."

The lack of surveillance came to light after the New York Daily News reported about the issue earlier this month.

The article alarmed residents, who feared that crimes were being committed outside of the five-hour window.

The Parks Department immediately went on the defensive. Parks representative Terese Flores told Community Board 12's parks and cultural affairs committee on June 4 that the camera's could indeed record for 24 hours, but that it had limited storage and the recording hours were set by the 34th Precinct.

"What I've been told is that we give full access to the precinct and it's available when they recommend we record," Flores said. "We put it on when we're told to put it on."

But 34th Precinct Commanding Officer and Deputy Inspector Barry Buzzetti refuted those claims the next night at the board's public safety meeting, saying the precinct was under the assumption that the camera recorded for 24 hours.

"Any camera that we would request, we would want 24 hour cameras," Buzzetti said. "There's no other request that I would have."

Croft disputed the Parks Department's explanation and accused the department of attempting to pass the blame to the NYPD.

"It's so irresponsible that they would create a false sense of security and the try to blame it on the police department," Croft said.

Park security has been a big issue in northern Manhattan. Several muggings last year led to the installation of the Isham Park camera, while residents have petitioned the Parks Department and elected officials for more enforcement officers in Inwood Hill Park.

The Isham Park camera is one of just four cameras stationed in northern Manhattan's parks, which cover 500 acres of parkland. It is one of two cameras that can continuously record for 24 hours, a Parks spokesman told DNAinfo New York.

By comparison, Central Park alone has more than 30 cameras installed in addition to its own dedicated police precinct.

The Parks Department did not respond to requests for an update on the camera.

The Community Board and City Councilman Robert Jackson have reached out to the Parks Department for information regarding the camera model, cost and storage capacity. Ryan, whose husband was violently mugged near Isham Park in June 2012, said that she will continue to hound the Department for answers.

"It’s really a shame that the Parks Department t has been allowed to neglect Inwood Hill Park and Isham Park they way they have," Ryan said. "It’s time to hold both the Parks Department and our elected officials accountable with regard to maintaining Inwood’s parks."