KIPS BAY — The city is banning childless adults from a section of a Kips Bay park after receiving complaints from residents about strangers lingering near the playground, and in some cases, harassing kids, according to officials.
Vincent F. Albano Jr. Playground, located on a fenced-in corner of Second Avenue and East 29th Street, is surrounded by an L-shaped seating area, which for years has been drawing strangers who defecate and perform lewd acts, and at least in one instance, talk to children, calling them by name, according to Councilwoman Rosie Mendez who's been pushing the Parks Department to install signs in the area to ward off adults who don't belong there.
“I have sat in that area of the park on many occasions, and it’s generally me and a bunch of homeless men,” Mendez said. “I have never seen bad behavior, but parents have told me of lewd sexual acts, defecating, just a laundry list of things in that area.”
In one incident this summer, a homeless man repeatedly came to the park and called one child by name, Mendez said.
After the child’s parents notified authorities, officers worked with the Department of Homeless Services to identify the man — a resident of the nearby 30th Street Men’s Shelter — and moved him to a different shelter away from the playground, according to Mendez.
DHS did not immediately respond to request for more information. There have been no reported criminal incidents at the park this year, according to police.
“Parents have often said that it’s very difficult to keep an eye on their kids there,” she said. “When you’re down in that L-shaped area, an adult could very quickly grab a child or have an unwelcome interaction with a child.”
And Mendez isn't the only one to receive complaints of this kind. Residents have reached out to the Parks Department as well, and the agency has agreed to install signs around the seating area in the next couple of days indicating the no-adult zone, according to a Parks spokeswoman.
The park's handball court will remain open to adults unaccompanied by children, the spokeswoman said.
Parks Enforcement Patrol officers will enforce the new rules by first giving violators a warning and issuing summonses to repeat offenders, with the potential involvement of the NYPD, according to the spokeswoman.
Mendez said parents have come to her for years complaining that the seating area at the park is much too close to the playground, allowing childless adults to sit directly next to where kids are playing.
The problem is the rising population of homeless men congregating in the neighborhood — part of a citywide boom in homelessness — and men staying in nearby shelters often ending up in local parks, according to Mendez.
News of the planned signage was a relief to local parent Eduardo Vianna, who said he has seen unsavory characters hanging out in the park, littering or even urinating near the playground in broad daylight, he said.
“The guys who hang out here litter a lot," Vianna said. "I’m hoping it will be a little cleaner.”