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Million-Dollar Condos Offer Sweeping Views of Public Sex in Harlem Park

By Gustavo Solis | October 16, 2017 7:28am
 Residents of a Fifth Avenue high-rise overlooking Marcus Garvey Park where condos sell for more than $1 million often see people having sex in the park.
Sex in the Park
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HARLEM — Marie Gelot didn't realize what an eyeful she'd get when she bought her million-dollar apartment overlooking Marcus Garvey Park.

Beside the sweeping views of the Birch, Maple and Sweetgum trees that fill the park, she can often see men and women having sex there in broad daylight.

“I saw a lot of b---jobs, guys having sex, guys masturbating, I really saw the whole gamut,” Gelot, who lived in the complex for five years, said. She moved out in August.

The building has such direct views of the illicit activity that the NYPD often uses it as headquarters for sting operations.

Officers with binoculars and radios used Gelot’s apartment to catch horny parkgoers in flagrante delicto, signaling to their undercover counterparts on the ground, who would then make an arrest.

But the issue pre-dates the Fifth Avenue building's opening in 2009.

Construction workers noticed it when the building was being constructed, doorman David Lamboy said.

At first, he thought the construction crew was exaggerating. But when a resident asked him to water the plants while she was on vacation, Lamboy saw it with his own eyes.

“I’m a lifelong New Yorker. I’ve seen many things, but what I saw that day shocked me,” the doorman recounted. “Not to be too graphic, but it was one gal and three guys.”

Residents who paid $1 million for condos are often shocked when they notice what’s going on in the public green space, Lamboy added. Their calls often prompt a police response and more sting operations, but as soon as the police leave, the hanky panky continues.

The most romantic spot seems to be among the foliage on the park’s hill. The trees protect lovers from being spotted by anyone on the street level, but the condominiums have a bird’s-eye view of the action.

The most popular spot, according to residents, is an area just off the path leading up to the top of the park’s hill. The spot sits on the southeast side, just off a footpath that is littered with open condom wrappers.

When a DNAinfo New York reporter visited the area Thursday afternoon, one man was seen performing oral sex on another man. Below them, at grade level in the park, older people played chess on park benches, while dogs frolicked and a group of kids played a flag football game on the field.

Joseph Manley, who lives near the park on 123rd St., also saw the men in the act.

“This is ridiculous,” said Manley, who takes his dog to the park and has seen men walking around naked. “I tell them to take that sh--t somewhere else because there are children in the park. The kids see it, the tourists see it, some of them take pictures sometimes.”

The 25th Precinct has made eight “patronizing prostitution” arrests and seven “public lewdness” arrests at the park this year, an NYPD spokesman said.

Two of those arrests came Jan. 21, when it was about 40 degrees outside.

Residents of the condo tower see people having sex in the park year-round, said Nelson Flecha, superintendent of the luxury building overlooking the park.

“In the winter, you notice it more because all the leaves are gone,” he said.

The Marcus Garvey Park Alliance, an organization founded to "restore the park to a safe and inviting space," has been trying to beautify the top section of the green space for years. They've organized events at the top of the park to increase foot traffic in the hopes of decreasing public sex.

Currently, the space is a barren construction site. But the city is scheduled to restore a historic watchtower in 2018, and the alliance plans to host art installations and public events to increase foot traffic, said president Connie Lee.

The NYPD has done a good job of patrolling the park and decreasing the amount of drug use and robberies, she explained. But the public-sex problem is only going to be solved when more people start to reclaim the top section of Marcus Garvey Park, Lee said.

“Police can arrest them but they come back two weeks later,” Lee said. “I don’t think it’s an issue of policing the area.”

Gelot said the park was a big selling point when she moved into her apartment. It features a dog run, a baseball diamond, basketball courts, a pool and an outdoor theater.

Unfortunately, when she looked out her window to see the park, all she saw was sex.

“There were days where I could see a guy giving another guy a b---job and not far away, a girl reading a newspaper on a sunny day not realizing what was happening 20 feet behind her,” she said.

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