BY LUIS GRONDA
The City Parks Dept. has boosted its manpower, announcing last week that it will hire 81 new park enforcement officers to patrol green spaces in Queens and throughout the City.
The hires serve as good news to many who have been advocating for more parks officers.
The number of officers for parks has dwindled in recent years, leaving many major parks with few patrolling officers.
Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) was elated about the new hires and hopes that the Parks Dept. will allocate a fair amount of the new workers to patrol parks in Queens, adding that last summer, only one PEP officer was assigned to Queens.
“Crime is rising in our parks, and a handful of officers to keep an entire borough of parkland safe just won’t cut it,” Vallone said in a statement. “I’m glad the City has finally decided to hire more PEP officers, but we have to make sure Queens gets enough of them to keep people safe.”
Geoffrey Croft, president of New York City Parks Advocates, said that while it is great that more officers will be added, how it will ultimately impact Queens is undetermined because it is unknown how many of the new hires will be sent to the Borough. He added that even with the additions announced, it is still a far number from the early 1990s when around 450 PEP officers kept an eye on the parks.
According to Arthur Pincus, assistant communications commissioner for the Parks Dept., it has not been determined exactly where the officers will be assigned but they believe that each borough will get at least 10 of the new hires.
Mary Ann Carey, district manager of Community Board 9, said that more officers are needed to patrol Forest Park by foot and help out the 102nd Precinct, which monitors the green space as part of their command.
“We need the additional presence so that people can feel safe,” she said, adding that they would especially like to see an increased enforcement in the summer when more people are using the park and when the Bandshell hosts its summer concerts.
Bob Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association, said he cannot get too excited about the new officers until they know for sure how many the Borough is getting. He said that he hopes some are sent to patrol Juniper Park as it is needed to curtail crime that could happen there and make sure people are respecting the green space.
“In another few weeks, when the weather is warm, all of a sudden it’s packed,” Holden said. “We need more officers to make sure people are doing the right thing.”
According to Pincus, the hiring process for the open positions is underway and you can go to nycgovparks.org/opportunities/jobs and click on the “Parks Enforcement Patrol” link to see how to apply.
Reach Reporter Luis Gronda at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 127 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.