UPTOWN — Months after vowing to increase the number of Parks Department police responsible for patrolling the area's 140 parks and playgrounds, the city's Parks Department revealed Wednesday night that there are now only two officers assigned to the job.
Capt. William Cardoza, along with two Manhattan North Park Enforcement Patrol (PEP) officers, told residents assembled for the 34th Precinct Council meeting that although the department’s goal in May had been to be “13 strong,” the unit lost four officers recently, including the resignation of a sergeant.
The two available officers, Cardoza said, were the "bulk" of his evening unit.
“In the morning I’m scarce, and in the evening I’m even more scarce,” Cardoza said, adding that with a recent class graduating the parks training, he was hoping to reach the goal number of patrol officers soon.
The officers currently patrol 140 parks and playground in Northern Manhattan, Cardoza said, from Wednesday through Sunday, adding that he will try to add more patrol officers for the Monday and Tuesday shifts.
Safety in the parks has been an ongoing issue for residents in Northern Manhattan, which includes the 67-acre Fort Tryon Park, the 196-acre Inwood Hill Park and the 20-acre Isham Park.
Fort Tryon and Inwood Hill parks were the site of a series of robberies in late last year, as well as a rape and a deadly fall in Highbridge Park this year.
The department patrol unit, which is located in Highbridge Park, had four officers, a captain and two sergeants in May — and added and five officers to bring the total number of officers to nine, officials said at the time.
During the May safety meeting, which was organized by Community Board 12, several Parks Department officials, including the Manhattan Borough Commissioner of NYC Parks William Castro and Assistant Commissioner for Urban Park Service Michael Dockett, Council members Mark Levine and Ydanis Rodriguez and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, said that 14 officers would be patrolling the parks by the end of June.
Officials said at the time that they had sent a letter to the Parks Department commissioner requesting that the PEP officers formerly assigned to the Battery Park City Authority but released in light of changing security responsibilities be reassigned to Inwood Hill, Highbridge and Fort Tryon parks.
A spokesman for Levine said Thursday afternoon, their office hasn't received any updates, but that their office was contacting the Park Department for more information.
Rodriguez's office did not respond to a request for comment.
Geoffrey Croft, president of NYC Park Advocates, who has advocated for more PEP officers in Northern Manhattan, said the news isn’t surprising.
“Parks Department misrepresenting PEP allocation has been a longstanding issue,” Croft said. “We’ve tried to address it with them, and the union that represents them has tried to address it. And the public are the ones that are suffering.”