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Lights at Jackie Robinson Park Blaze During Day, But Go Out at Night

By Dartunorro Clark | May 20, 2016 11:43am | Updated on May 22, 2016 10:39pm
 Lights on during the day Thursday around 2 p.m. at Jackie Robinson Park in Harlem. May 19, 2016.
Lights on during the day Thursday around 2 p.m. at Jackie Robinson Park in Harlem. May 19, 2016.
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Dartunorro Clark/DNAInfo

HARLEM — In Jackie Robinson Park, the lights only come on in the middle of the day. At night, they go out.

And a resident says he's spent more than a year slogging through “incompetent” bureaucratic channels within the city trying to get lighting issues fixed — but says officials consistently turn a deaf ear.

Neighbor Richard Berkowitz reached out to the Parks Department initially in April 2015 to inform the city that three to four light posts lining the park, which stretches from West 145th to West 155th streets between Edgecombe and Bradhurst Avenues, had several dead bulbs.

As of last week, he said the only change at the park was for the worse — after officials apparently flipped the lights timer to illuminate the lights at the park during the day and turn them off at night.

“It puts the city at risk and God forbid somebody would get hurt in the park in part due to the park not being lit,” said Berkowitz, who lives across from the park.

“Then when something happens everyone goes berserk… That’s what makes this important beyond a bunch of lights.”

The lights were blazing at around 2 p.m when DNAinfo New York visited the park Thursday.

Berkowitz said he noticed the lights start to turn off after roughly 6 p.m. last week and promptly contacted city officials.

But he said his warnings went down a “rabbit hole” as officials began bouncing him back and forth between multiple city agencies.

Steve Simon, the Chief of Staff for the city's Parks Department, wrote, “In the future, I would suggest that you report any lights out to 311 so they can be referred promptly to DOT for repair," according to an email shared with DNAinfo by Berkowitz.

Berkowitz said he contacted 311, and has original the complaint number confirming the call, but the issue persists.

“They say call 311 but then nothing happens,” he said. “No one takes responsibility.”

Folashade Cornegay, 30, who lives near the park and brings her son there regularly, said it’s a safety concern for her.

“It’s one of those things you don’t notice during the day because we don’t need them,” she said.

“That’s unproductive…it’s a public space, I want to come sit with my friends at night and I should be able to.”

Berkowitz said he also reached out to Harlem Councilmember Inez Dickens’ office and Community Board 9, again to no avail.

DNAinfo New York spoke with Dickens’ office Thursday. Her spokesman said the issue would be promptly addressed.

Dickens’ staff did not know why Berkowitz’s complaints had gone unanswered. The emails provided show the councilmember’s office copied on the correspondence about the lighting complaints.

Eutha Prince, district manager of the local community board, said she would contact the parks administrator to immediately to correct the problem. Prince said the board’s office has had phone issues and that is why Berkowitz could not get through.

A Parks Department official told DNAinfo that the department is working with the Department of Transportation, which is responsible for park lighting, and Con Ed to resolve the issue.  

Berkowitz said at the very least it’s a failure of city bureaucracy and, at most, it’s a glaring safety issue.

“I’ve been trying for a year to get the lights fixed,” he said. “You have a citizen calling up and nothing is done… It’s not really about money, it's inattention and incompetence.”