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Advocates Push for Devoted Forest Park Precinct After Sexual Assaults

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | September 3, 2013 3:24pm
 Residents and elected officials say the park has many safety issues.
Following Sexual Assaults, Advocates Push for Precinct in Forest Park
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QUEENS — In the wake of two sexual attacks on joggers within the past five months in Forest Park, local advocates and elected officials want the city to create a new precinct devoted solely to the park, similar to the one in Central Park.

Proponents said the spate of attacks merits a precinct that will exclusively monitor the 550-acre greenspace. A 23-year-old jogger was Tasered and sexually assaulted in the park in March, and a 69-year-old woman was raped in the park last Monday near Forest Park Drive and Myrtle Avenue.

“It doesn’t have to be a big precinct,” said Ed Wendell, president of the Woodhaven Residents' Block Association. “But that would guarantee police presence there and it would make the park a lot safer.”

Although the description of the attackers in both incidents is similar — both are men described as being about 5-foot-9 and approximately 35-years-old — the sketches appeared to be of two different men, cops said.

Following the first incident, police created a special two-officer police unit to patrol the park on a daily basis from approximately 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, who represents Ridgewood, Middle Village, Glendale and Woodhaven, and who jogs in the park, said “a dedicated precinct for the park is an idea that is worth exploring.”

In April, she also wrote a letter to Commissioner Raymond Kelly asking him to restore a mounted police unit to the area “with the option of it being stationed in Forest Park.”

The mounted unit was removed more than a decade ago, said Crowley, who is also urging joggers to run in the park with partners and stay on main roads.

Community Board 9 District Manager Mary Ann Carey said she has been advocating for a separate police precinct for the park for 10 years. About a decade ago, she said, the community board had voted in favor of it, but there were no funds for the project.

She said the community board is also advocating to restore the mounted police patrols.

Carey noted that creating a new precinct within the park would require lobbying from residents, local civic associations and community boards. The project would also take years to complete, she said.

“You can’t just stick a cop in the middle of the park,” she said. “It’s a lot of planning.”

The NYPD did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment on the request for an additional precinct.

Critics said that the park struggles with a number of safety issues, such as lack of lighting in the early hours of the day along its main roads, including Myrtle Avenue.

“There is a good number of people who are out jogging, walking their dogs around that time and all the lights are out,” said Wendell, who said early-morning joggers have to run with flashlights at Victory Field, near Myrtle Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard.

A spokesman for the Department of Transportation said in an email that the outage at Myrtle Ave. and Woodhaven Blvd. near Victory Field "appears to have been caused by vandalism" and that "the agency is currently working with the Parks Department here and will also discuss potential enforcement with the NYPD."