Sunday, October 28, 2007

Summary from October Commissioner Meeting

The Friends of St. Nicholas Park participated in our monthly Commissioner Meeting for St. Nicholas Park last week. It was the first time the St. Nicholas Park team (which includes Police Precinct reps, Commissioner and his staff, City College, Friends of St. Nicholas Park, and other community leaders) has met since last June. There were lots of issues the Friends' representatives brought up to the Commissioner and his staff. There were issues that members of our group had brought to our attention during the Friends' Monthly Meeting. The notes from the meeting are below but can also be downloaded via PDF by clicking below.

St. Nicholas Park Monthly Operations Meeting (in PDF)

Monthly Operations Meeting (October)
Friday, October 26, 2007

William Castro, Manhattan Commissioner of Park
Steve Simon, Chief of Staff
Sal Trento, St. Nicholas Park Manager
Captain McCants, PEP Officer
Officer Harper, 26th Precinct Officer
Robert Santos, Director of Development, City College
Pat Morena, Director of Security, City College
William Mullin, Friends of St. Nicholas Park
Risa Rottenberg, Friends of St. Nicholas Park
Sarah Fort, Partnership for parks
Barbara Allen, Parks and Recreation

Manager's Report - Sal Trento


Manager has recorded a total of 10 lights out in the Park which will be reported and work orders submitted to fix.

7 lights are out on the Upper Path
2 lights are out in the plaza
1 light is out on the 141st street entrance

Friends representative William Mullin noted another light our along 135th street staircase that is used to illuminate the dog park. Now that it is getting dark earlier, William asked if this light could be repaired for dog owners feel safer in the dog park during the early evening.


One troubled homeless individual called "Ma" refuses treatment or help and leaves belongings outside buildings and around the park. The park staff tries to remove trash and belongings in the way of park users and are occasionally threatened by drug dealers who protect her things.

Commissioner states the precinct should be called if any workers are threatened.

On the north park of the park, Hispanic day laborers are sleeping on a rock outcrop and leaving garbage after they spend a night there. The park manager will look into this and PEP will try to find them services, since the rule is no one in the park after 10pm.


A few incidents have been reported where the chess players are gambling and playing cards for money. The parks have reprimanded them a few times. Also fights have broken out among the players. PEP (Parks Enforcement Patrol) and Precinct should become more involved in handling these situations.

Chess players are not leaving the area during night when the park closes. They remain well after 10pm and state to PEP or Parks staff that they have been granted a courtesy to stay after 10pm since they have been there 20 years. Commissioner said no such courtesy exists since it would set a precedent of preference. Commissioner reiterated that the chess players need to follow the park's rule just like everyone else.

PEP Report - Captain McCants

In addition to continuing to ticket off-leash dog during on-leash hours (9am-9pm), PEP has stepped up their patrol of giving summons to dog owners not picking up their dog's waste. All parks participated in a canine waste summit where PEP has been tasked with focusing on issuing summons for neglect of picking up after a dog.


PEP has begun "sweeps" of the parks in order to assure no one is in the park after 10pm. 2- 3 officers start at one end and walk to the other end and give summons for anyone in the park after 10pm. So far, only mischievous kids, alcohol, drug use has been found. Some homeless also found and given services (Bowery called) if they accept.

Plans are to increase enforcement in the parks during the evening hours. Commissioner suggested that perhaps the auxiliary police officers be tasked with helping with this initiative. City College Security Head, Pat Morena and 26th Precinct Officer Harper are to meet to discuss how both can contribute in decreasing crime in St. Nicholas Park.

Police Report - Officer Harper


Officer Harper from the 26th Precinct reported that for the 28 day period from September 24th to October 21st there has been a total of 3 robberies in St. Nicholas Park.

Location of robberies

October 2nd at 7:35 pm 1 at 135th street and St. Nick Avenue
October 17th 1 at St. Nicholas Terrace at the 135th street entrance to the park
October 19th 1 in St. Nicholas Park on the 135th street staircase.

2 arrests have been made related to the robberies described above.

Year to date, for all crimes the park is down 39% of all crimes from last year.

Year to date in or near park:

8 Grand Larcenies
5 Assaults
3 Burglaries
23 Robberies
0 Murders

Concerning the troubled area of 135th street and St. Nicholas Terrace, City College Director of Development Robert Santos proposed mounting a security camera to film the area. Even a sign letting people know they are being filmed may deter crime in that location.

Capital Project Report - Steve Simon, Commissioner Chief of Staff

Steve Simon reported on 5 projects that will be beginning either this fall or next year. Friends requested scopes for all these projects in order to let park users know what is going on.

Beginning November 2007 - Upper Path Reconstruction 134th-138th streets - this is construction of needed drainage and addressing sink hole issues in surrounding area. Rehabilitation will also include paving the section of pathway near the dog run, which currently can get muddy and police cars and service trucks get stuck.

Friends of St. Nicholas Park wanted to confirm inclusion of a water link to the dog run during this project. Steve Simon reported that they are having a hard time finding a source of water to bring to to the run. Commissioner Castro said it should not be that hard and the Parks will issues a scope change for the project to make sure it happens. Friends member has followed up with Steve Simon to see if there was anything the Friends members could do to make this happen.

Beginning March 2008 - Upper Path Reconstruction 131st - 134th streets - this is a construction and rehabilitation of the Upper Path to address drainage issues as well as pave over a section of path that is currently dirt.

Beginning March 2008 - Resurfacing of 140th St. Basketball Courts - this resurfacing was scheduled for this Summer, but the Friends expressed concern about having the courts shut down during a peak seasonal time, especially when some tournaments were scheduled to take place at that time. The resurfacing was put off until next spring and Parks assures the courts will be ready for the summer season.

Beginning Spring 2008 - 132nd to 135th Lower Path Rehabilitation - rehabilitating the path and addressing drainage issues, as well as landscaping around the area.

Beginning Summer 2008 - 130th to 137th street sidewalk repair along St. Nicholas Terrace. Although slated to start earlier this project which will be managed by the DOT (Department of Transportation) is confirmed for next year. Risa Rottenberg has requested that scope include all the way to 139th street since the sidewalks are a mess there as well. The Commissioner said that they will make a request to extend the work 2 blocks north to 139th street.

Hamilton Grange Update - Steve Simon

The relocation of Hamilton Grange into St. Nicholas Park. Funding has been confirmed and contractors have been chosen for work on moving the Historic Hamilton Grange into St. Nicholas Park. This is confirmed to happen as early as Spring 2008. Recently, trees have been tagged for taking down and stakes in the ground outline the proposed site of the house. The contractors have determined to move the house along Hamilton Terrace to the park. More trees may have to be removed to make this happen.

Friends have requested materials, information and a schedule to keep our members informed. Steve Simon said he will try to get as much information as possible. Friends member Risa Rottenberg will be our liaison to the Hamilton Grange Contractors for information about the move. Risa is a trained architect and has experience working with contractors in her field.

City College Report - Robert Santos/Pat Morena

Pat Morena was introduced to the group. He is the head of security at City College. He shared some ideas on how to make St. Nicholas park safer for City College students. He is going to work with Officer Harper of the 26th precinct and PEP officers to help enforce park rules better and patrol during the night.

Robert Santos shared with the group a project that will turn the roof of the administration building into a deck for students that overlooks St. Nicholas Park. This will help lessen the barrier that exists between City College Campus and the park. The group agreed they still have more to do in order to change to mindset of the park being a dangerous place to go into. Steve Simon pointed out a positive article about the park in the City College Student newspaper that also mentioned that students should definitely keep out during the night.

Friends Report - William Mullin and Risa Rottenberg

Friends presented print outs of areas around the park that needed attention. These included:

- Railing on 140th street staircase
- Iron Fence on 141st street
- Iron Fence on St. Nicholas Terrace
- Garbage and contractor debris at Hamilton Terrace, 141st street corner.
- Temporary Fencing in middle of path between 139th and 138th street


William asked how the Friends can engage parks to request some of the trees in the Mayor's MillionTreeNYC initiative. Commissioner and Sarah Fort agreed that the Friends should survey the areas and tree pits most needing trees and send to Sarah Fort to pass on. Risa Rottenberg and William Mullin to engage the Friends to walk the park and record empty/damaged tree pits.


Friends expressed an interest back in June in holding a ribbon-cutting for the dog run. Parks has not had time to address and suggested perhaps a one year anniversary celebration for the ribbon-cutting. Steve Simon suggested during one of the Coffee Barks they can have the Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe cut a ribbon and thank the community for creating the Dog park.

Commissioner Castro said that next weekend may even be better since the weather would be warmer and the Friends have the fall Festival in the afternoon. Friends to resend materials to Steve Simon and schedule a time for the cutting.


Friends mentioned the proposal to have a full orchestra perform in St. Nicholas Park next summer. This is costly and Friends asked if it could be park of the City Park's Foundation schedule of events. Sarah Fort will look into the possibilities. Friends will try to obtain as much info as possible about the orchestra for Steve Simon and Sarah Fort.


Friends recently met with Harv (last name?) and Ron Guy of St. Mark's United Methodist Church and they expressed an interest in programming for teens the park or establishing a structure where teems could go and hang out with their friends. Something like a recreation center. Commissioner Castro said he would be happy to discuss with Ron Guy. Friends member Risa Rottenberg has set up a meeting for the Friends, Ron Guy and the Commissioner to brainstorm ideas.

Partnership for Parks Update - Sarah Fort, Outreach Coordinator

Sarah let the Friends know of a group from City College who is interested in volunteering more for the park. The group information will be given to William and the Friends will contact the group with any volunteers opportunities Scott Farrington has.


Sarah said that Ann Leford, graphic designer, could revise the St. Nick Park Brochure since copies are running low. Friends to look at revising and communicating changes to Partnership for Parks.

Next Meeting

Next meeting was agreed to. It will take place on Thursday, November 29th at 9 a.m. Location to be determined but preference is City College.

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