Monday, December 22, 2014

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NY1 Exclusive: Rules Eased at Park Near Scene of Garner Arrest

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The NYPD has told the Parks Department to stand down when it comes to aggressively patrolling the park that is located right in the middle of the uproar surrounding Eric Garner's death at the hands of police. NY1's Amanda Farinacci filed the following report.

A sign outside Tompkinsville Park reads "This Park Closes at Dusk." And yet at 10 o'clock at night its gates are unlocked and there are still people hanging out inside.

"I've seen like people drinking, out of the paper bags and stuff, I haven't actually seen like drug use, but I mean, you'll see the guy smoking the doobie and whatever," said one passerby.

As of July, there were close to a hundred arrests in the park this year on quality of life type violations. It's just one of 11 on Staten Island that is supposed to be locked every night by the Parks Enforcement Patrol, or PEP.

PEP officers lock the gate and clear loiterers from the area in the hopes of preventing vandalism and other illegal activity. Parks officers - and the NYPD - are allowed to issue summonses to anyone caught hanging around inside after hours. Residents say that has been common practice for the last several years, until very recently.

"It's supposed to be closed; there's no lights in the park," said one neighborhood resident.

"If they always close it then they shouldn't have changed that," said another neighborhood resident.

But since Eric Garner's death across the street at the hands of the police, residents say that has changed.

Garner is the 43-year-old father of six who died during a quality-of-life crackdown by police who were trying to stop the illegal sale of cigarettes.

The medical examiner ruled the death a homicide and a grand jury will decide whether charges will be brought in the case.

Sources say since Garner's death, the Parks Department has been told by the NYPD to stop locking the park and issuing summonses to anyone hanging out inside.

"The police want it open? Why? That makes no sense," said one Tompkinsville resident.

In the short time NY1 was at the park, the station witnessed public drinking, public urination, and a fist fight: All reasons residents say the park should be off limits after dark.

The NYPD confirms it did tell the Parks Department to relax its rules about closing the park because of the sensitivity of the situation with Garner, pointing to a memorial in his honor nearby.

Police vehicles were visible during NY1's visit and the NYPD says the area is still heavily patrolled.

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