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Sex Attack on Jogger Was an 'Incident Waiting to Happen,' Runners Say

By  James Fanelli and Ben Fractenberg | October 12, 2016 3:01pm 

 A jogger runs on East Drive in Central Park where a female runner was nearly raped Monday night, police said.
A jogger runs on East Drive in Central Park where a female runner was nearly raped Monday night, police said.
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DNAinfo New York/Ben Fractenberg

UPPER EAST SIDE — Central Park joggers are running scared after a woman was nearly raped Monday night and a persistent problem of broken street lamps have left some paths dark and dangerous.

"Runners have been uncomfortable running in all the dark stretches of the park and this was an incident waiting to happen," jogger Francesco Presutti, 54, said of the attempted rape. "It is also a serious blow to our sense of security, particularly upsetting with the winter coming up."

Police said a female jogger was running on East Drive near 107th Street in the park at 9:30 p.m. on Monday when a man grabbed and dragged her into a wooded area. The man attempted to rape the victim before fleeing with her cellphone, police said.

 Joggers run on East Drive in Central Park, where a female runner was nearly raped on Monday night, police said.
Joggers run on East Drive in Central Park, where a female runner was nearly raped on Monday night, police said.
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DNAinfo New York/Ben Fractenberg

The attack came two weeks after DNAinfo New York reported that joggers were increasingly concerned about broken street lamps along running paths in Central Park and Prospect Park. One running group, the Dashing Whippets, had counted 15 non-working lights in Central Park — some of them broken since the start of August.

The group said it's reported the lamps to the city Department of Transportation, but many remain out. They have even bought whistles for their runners to carry to feel safe. 

"We think that whenever parks are open to the public, runners and cyclists should feel safe in our city's parks," said Michael Alcamo, who is on the board of the Dashing Whippets.

The runners said they welcomed an increased NYPD presence in the park following the attack.

Runners said that while the area where the woman was attacked doesn't have broken street lamps, there are sections of East Drive that are dangerous.

Alcamo and Chris Forti, the Dashing Whippets team coach, said one particularly bad stretch is between 85th Street and 90th Street. They said there were four lamps posts there that needed to be repaired. Forti said joggers who are out on that stretch after 7:30 p.m. have taken to wearing headlamps to improve visibility.

Forti said that the area on East Drive where the female jogger was attacked on Monday leaves runners particularly vulnerable. That stretch has one of the highest hills in the park's loop, making it a popular training spot for runners.

But the section is bounded on one side by an incline leading to the Lasker Rink and on the other by the park's north woods.

"Unfortunately, that portion of the road is inescapable for someone being attacked with the steep drop-off to Lasker Rink on one side and the the rock cliff face of North Woods on the other," Forti said.

NYPD Chief of Department Carlos Gomez on Tuesday promised to ramp up patrols in the park in response to the attack.

"It will be on all tours, 24 hours a day. There will be more officers there. There will be more officers both inside the park and around the perimeter," he said.

Forti said he was glad to hear that the park will have more officers on patrol.

"We welcome the increased patrols and are hopeful the park lighting will be repaired throughout the park," he said. "Police presence was very noticeable throughout Central Park on Tuesday night, but some very dark areas still exist on the roads."