BATTERY PARK CITY — The Battery Park City Authority has cut all of its Park Enforcement Patrol Officers in favor of private security guards, leaving many in the community frustrated by what they say is a governing board that is not listening to the needs of the neighborhood.
The move to not renew the PEP officers' contract came as a shock to many in the community — the BPCA had previously said it was planning on reducing the number of PEP officers, while adding the Allied Barton security guards. The introduction of the security guards, who, unlike PEP officers, have no power to make arrests or write summonses, was already an unpopular plan with many in the neighborhood.
The BPCA's decision to not re-sign the PEP contract, effectively ending their role in policing the neighborhood on Jan. 31, was posted on the BPCA's website Saturday.
The authority's chairperson, Dennis Mehiel, who — like almost all the board's members — does not live in the neighborhood, wrote in a post on the site that cutting the PEP officers was in response to community feedback.
"This agreement is the product of a public bidding process informed in large part by feedback from and communication with our residents, who expressed their desire to seek a more effective alternative to the service provided by the Parks Enforcement Patrol (PEP)," he wrote.
Many in the community scoffed at the notion that they would prefer having security guards with no authority to make arrests.
"This shows another example of the BPCA not listening to the community," said longtime resident and Community Board 1 member Tammy Meltzer. "PEP officers can enforce rules, Allied Barton can not enforce the rules, leaving us without any type of enforcement other than calling 911."
While the community has had issues with the PEP in the past — many in the neighborhood have rallied around the PEP officers in the months since the BPCA discussed its plans to hire private security.
Residents, the community board and several local elected officials have decried the authority's decision to hire the security and cut PEP, in part because the move was made without any community input, they said.
The controversial addition of the security guards, who began work in December, has already sparked anger and fueled worries about their effectiveness after two teens were beaten and robbed in the neighborhood. Witnesses have claimed that the Allied Barton security guards did not do enough to intervene.
The BPCA has defended the guards, saying they were the first on the scene of the attack and called 911.
Joe Puleo, the president of the PEP officer's union, Local 983, said he was "outraged" by the BPCA's decision.
"It's unbelievable that they're pulling this stunt," he said."The PEP has been a significant part of this neighborhoods quality of life since 1992 — now they're being displaced by guards who have no authority, it's just sad."
Puleo said his union is considering legal action on behalf of the PEP.
In a statement to DNAinfo New York, the Parks Department said: "Although NYC Parks was hopeful that Battery Park City Authority would extend their relationship with the Parks Enforcement Patrol, BPCA has unfortunately decided not to extend the PEP contract."
The PEP officers will lose their posts in Battery Park City, but not their jobs. They've been reassigned to other neighborhoods.
The cutting of PEP officers comes as residents and elected officials have increasingly been calling on Governor Cuomo's office to appoint people who live in the neighborhood to the BPCA.
Just last week, State Sen. Daniel Squadron and Assemblywoman Deborah Glick introduced a bill in the state legislature that would require a majority of BPCA members to live in the area.
The BPCA, the seven-member state agency that oversees Battery Park City, now has only one member who lives in Battery Park City.
Residents have also started a petition, asking the governor to support local representation.