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March 14, 2010 / Brooklyn news / Park Slope / Meadows of Shame

Blood, threat and fears! Prospect Park has become a macabre crime scene

The Brooklyn Paper
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Splattered blood on the rocks of Prospect Park, smashed turtle shells, a suspicious attempt at a campfire — and finally, arson in the reedy underbush.

It’s not the latest Linda Fairstein mystery novel — it’s a chronology from last week along the lakeshore in Brooklyn’s green heart.

Park-goer Susan Yuen noticed the first of the disturbing events — the blood-spattered rocks on the shoreline of the lake near Prospect Park Southwest.

There was blood, lots of it, pooled on the rocks and seeping into the sullied soil. This wasn’t a mere paper cut or skinned knee. This was murder.

Someone had clearly used the rock as a rudimentary chopping block.

“It was still wet,” said Yuen, shaken from the last Sunday discovery. “At first I thought the blood was from the swans.”

Fortunately, Honeybear and the rest of the celebrity waterfowl were in good health, but were keeping away from their regular haunts — a sign to the bird-lovers that something traumatic had happened.

Yuen headed for the nearby Audubon Center in the boathouse and notified the naturalists, who analyzed the crime scene photos.

“If it is blood, probably not from a bird, even if was sitting in one spot, slowly bleeding over a long period of time,” the naturalists concluded. “It seems that would have to be a pretty big fish for that big a pool blood. And for it to collect that densely on the top of the dirt and the rock, like a pour, it’s probably not likely.”

The message went on to say that a dog attack seemed unlikely, as out-of-control dogs generally “go for a kill … and then try to break the neck. But they don’t sit there and rip it apart.”

If it had only been some blood on the rocks, that would have been alarming enough, but that macabre incident was only the beginning.

By Thursday morning, more blood had appeared at the crime scene, meaning that someone — or something — sadistic had repeated the grisly deed.

Unofficial park watchdogs Ed Bahlman and Anne-Katrin Titze, who have become leading advocates for swan safety, were quickly alerted, and their keen eyes noticed other disturbing clues.

A few feathers were scattered about a splotch of blood on a tree by the lake — was some desperate or demonic soul capturing the waterfowl for a meal?

“But where are the bones? There is no carcass,” Titze said. “It goes against any theory that an animal could have caught it. It’s too clean and butcher-y.”

To add to the mystery, there was an arrangement of sticks in a campfire-like pile nearby.

While contemplating the significance of these unsettling signs of malfeasance, Titze and Bahlman came upon another disturbing site: someone had smashed turtle shells in the middle of the path opposite the boat house. They were picked clean of flesh.

“Sure, an animal could have eaten [the meat],” said Bahlman. “But someone would have had to smash them.”

He ominously added, “Somebody is doing something mean-spirited.”

But that very night, this unraveling mystery would take a fiery turn.

At the very same site where the fire had been attempted, someone succeeded and started a blaze that swept across the reeds on the banks of Prospect Park lake, scorching 30 yards of phragmites — the invasive species that blankets portions of the lake front. Friday morning, all that was left was an ashy wasteland scattered with glass bottles and beer cans. The smell of cinder was still in the air.

“We do have homeless people camp out in the phragmites, but not usually there,” said Eugene Patron, a spokesman for the park. “Sometimes they’ll light a fire — but it’s too damp. It’s weird.”

Anne Wong, the head of landscape management at the park, said that the “phrag” must have burnt out on its own, adding that the culprit could just as easily be rowdy kids causing trouble. Patron said the police had not been alerted during any of the sinister nocturnal activities.

Many questions remain unanswered. Who — or what — left all the blood on the rocks (which the rain has since rinsed clean)? Did some malicious madman smash the turtles that bask in the sun near the boathouse? Lastly, who started the fire, and was it an ill-fated attempt to cook some illicit avian or reptilian meat?

Or is something else entirely going on?

Prospect Park officials are investigating, but have nothing so far.

“We don’t know whether there is a connection or just an unfortunate coincidence,” Patron said. “It’s all these weird pieces, but nothing concrete.”

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Reader Feedback

Larry Z from Carroll Gardens says:
And WHY weren't the police alerted? If the culprit is "rowdy kids" does that make it okay? How are Prospect Park officials investigating? I know the sites where guys like to set up camp--why aren't those sites patrolled regularly and the illegal camping stopped? It seems to me that the Prospect Park officials aren't very vigilant in protecting the flora & fauna around the lake--if the lake were on the Park Slope side of the park would we get this figurative shrug of the shoulders from those responsible for the care of the park?
March 14, 2010, 9:31 am
Sheila from Prospect Lefferts Garden says:
I walk the park every day and by interacting with Nature I am a better person. I try to give back to the Park by way of picking up a bit of trash and never leave any of my own. This is simple, a simple lesson that can be taught to young people by way of example - if they see their elders respecting the Park they will follow. The priority needs to be the protection of all flora and fauna from humans who unfortunately believe they hold dominion over all that they see. We can start by banning the catch and release of fish - how cruel and ignorant. One dollar fines for any first offense littering, five hundred second offense... There should also be one person who takes responsibility for the Park - one that we invest trust into - otherwise it is the same old New York problem - responsibility is passed until apathy is created. As a people we need to use healthy shame as a means of curtailing cruelty whenever we see it in practice. There is nothing more important than coverage of what is happening in our environment - thank you Brooklyn Paper
March 14, 2010, 11:29 am
Bonita from Prospect Lefferts Garden says:
More patrolling....and much more trash removal. People think they can throw their garbage all over, because they can. This produces an atmosphere of who cares...we can get away with anything. This incident sounds disgusting, and we need some night patrolling to stop it.
March 14, 2010, 12:37 pm
Paul from East Village says:
Turtles are neat.
March 14, 2010, 12:44 pm
Pacholo from Red Hook says:
Call the police there's a mad man around.
March 14, 2010, 2:37 pm
Elke from Clinton Hill says:
These incidents need to be investigated. First the "attack" on the swans a few months ago, and now these scary events. Turtle shells cracked open looks like animal abuse. And blood on the stones near the lake does not sound comforting either. Propsect Park Officials need to look into these events as soon as possbible to avoid further harm.
March 14, 2010, 5:53 pm
Susan from from Kensington says:
Call the police! What police? They are invisible as the so-called Park Rangers. I can't believe things like this happened and Park officials are so nonchalant about it all! WAKE UP AND SMELL THE SMOKE!
March 14, 2010, 8:15 pm
joey from clinton hills says:
immigrants and satanists need to learn how to behave. Give a hoot, don't pollute!
March 15, 2010, 10:27 am
Jen Jie from South Slope says:
Everyone: Please call the 78th Police Precinct and demand an investigation into these crimes committed in the park: 718-636-6411

If these incidents had happened outside the park (arson, blood stains) can you imagine that the police and the fire department would NOT have been alerted already? I find it truly frightening that the park authorities did not contact the local police as soon as they found the evidence of these crimes. Is Prospect Park a lawless zone, a place where criminals can do anything after dark? How do we know if the blood stains came from people or animals? The culprit is still at loose. We all need to call the local precinct and demand a formal investigation.
March 15, 2010, 10:42 am
Colin from Windsor Terrace says:
The role of a New York City park representative should not include covering up and/or trying to diminish the significance of the harm done to Prospect Park.
Mr. Brown and his editor have been diligent in shining a light on this practice. The quotes from the park's representatives expose what many who visit the park have known and experienced first-hand and we thank them.
It did not surprise anyone who cares to find:
All the garbage left behind where the fire was set has floated into lake. There was no clean-up before the storm and now the location is flooded.
Waterfowl, turtles, fish, birds and yes, we humans, have all been impacted negatively by the lack of care.
March 15, 2010, 11:49 am
Y. Greene from Lefferts says:
I think that creepy dude in the picture did it! Awesome photo. How is this not in the editorial section? Please continue though Stephan Brown, "reporter", maybe it'll keep rent prices down, and gentrification away.
March 15, 2010, 12:10 pm
Caroline from Flatbush says:
Prospect Park is at a crossroads.
We have a vital piece of real estate deteriorating before our eyes and the focus is on building two skating rinks. This will include taking grassland to build a concrete parking lot. All of this is to make sure that those who come never see the worsening condition of the rest of the park.
The day-to-day work needed is not getting done while money is being solicited and appropriated for distractions, not attractions at the park.
March 15, 2010, 12:41 pm
John from Prospect Heights says:
Y. Greene could take a trip out to the lake and see how widespread the damage is from the set fire.
It is clear to many, that the photo was taken early the next day when the fumes were at their strongest.

The toxic odor remains at the location even with the storm.

There seems to be already a number of low rent or rent-free locations to choose from inside the park.
March 15, 2010, 1:06 pm
Deb from Ditmas says:
Can we calm down the alarmist tone in your article? Yes, these incidents are real, but it's too easy to make a story about madmen in the park. First, the fire. That exact stand of phragmites burned down about 4-5 yearws ago and grew back within the year. Probably a careless smoker. The turtles and bloodstains look to me like some hungry person, not a madman, foraged for food. I once lived on a farm and raised chickens. You chop off the heads on a chopping block, then take the bird to the house to clean and pluck. The trash is another story. I am one of those who try to collect a bag every time I go, but it's getting harder to find trash cans to put them in. There doesn't seem to be any Park people cleaning up. The other day, I saw workers bagging leaves from a path, scrupulously avoiding the beer cans right beside them. By the way, I have started a blog about our daily walks in the park with the dog and what we see. prospectparkday.blogspot.com if anyone is interested.
March 15, 2010, 2:50 pm
Rick from Windsor Terrace says:
I hope the authorities get to the bottom of this. There is enough violence in the world without more in the park.
March 15, 2010, 11:46 pm
Jess from WT says:
Trash is a violation for the Sanitation Police or Park Rangers to handle. Unfortunately people do eat turtles, which could explain the shells. Blood - could be from cleaning a fish or two. It should have been called in for investigation right away. Fire - might have been a careless smoker, not necessarily intentional. The police won't investigate unless there is strong evidence of a crime and a victim. Hidden surveillance cameras might make this area a safer, cleaner place.
March 16, 2010, 1:58 am
John from Park Slope says:
The strong winds and heavy rains have exposed the watercourse at Prospect Park to a significant amount of pollution.
Yes, pollution.
The garbage that was left uncollected in amongst the now water-logged phragmites for months, if not longer, has floated into the lake and the Lullwater. This is a serious concern for its inhabitants. The safety and health of the lake has been compromised. Most of the debris has sunk into the lake over the last few days. Still there is much more to clean-up.
This needs to be a priority for those who are responsible for the care of the lake's environment.
March 16, 2010, 11:32 am
Sheila from PLG says:
Hey Brooklyn Paper - have you any word on what is being done?
March 16, 2010, 8:14 pm
Balki from PS says:
Always tons of broken glass on the paths in the park. Apparently alot of people are always dropping bottles.
March 17, 2010, 3:22 pm
richie rich from parkslope says:
I walk my dog in the park and rarely do i see a park ranger actually patrolling the park. Even on the weekends there not to be seen. I think they all hang out in the station house a —— all day.
March 18, 2010, 3:38 pm

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