Crowd patrol: Police beef up Bridge Park force ahead of spring break

Day in the park: The large crowds in Brooklyn Bridge Park on Tuesday forced NYPD to shut part of the green space.
Photo by Paul Martinka

This green space is turning blue.

Cops are deploying more boots on the ground in Brooklyn Bridge Park ahead of kids’ week-long spring break from school, following authorities’ forced evacuation of crowds from the meadow on an unusually warm April day last year, the 84th Precinct’s executive officer announced on Monday.

Captain Tyrice Miller said his command will dispatch one lieutenant, three sergeants, and 24 men and women in blue to patrol the sprawling green space along the East River starting in early March, before schools close from Mar. 30–Apr. 6. The amped up force contains nearly twice as many officers than typically patrol the park in colder months, and about eight more than were on the scene last Apr. 11 when police claim they didn’t expect hundreds of teens to pile onto Pier 2, ultimately forcing authorities to drive the kids from the meadow and down local streets to many residents’ frustrations.

“Last year we pretty much got caught off guard — one day it was 35 degrees and the next day it turned to 80 degrees,” Miller said before attendees of Community Board 2’s joint Parks and Recreation and Youth Committee meeting. “So this way, everybody is in place by mid-March. And if, for whatever reason, it turns 80 degrees on Feb. 28, then we will request additional mobilization down to the park.”

Brooklyn Bridge Park stewards will also station officials from the Department of Parks and Recreation’s Parks Enforcement Patrol, including three sergeants and 12 officers, to prepare for potentially large spring-break crowds, according to a meadow spokeswoman, who said an additional 10 officers are deployed in the park during its peak season from June through October.

But the presence of extra men and women in uniform could transform the park’s leisurely atmosphere into that of a totalitarian police state, according to a Clinton Hill resident who co-chairs the board’s Youth Committee.

“I think what is a little concerning is that it seems like we’re responding to this as a way of policing bodies and people,” said Tamara McCaw.

Other civic-group members suggested park leaders hang signs around the popular Pier 2 — which houses a roller rink and handball and basketball courts — that clearly state its capacity and explain the circumstances that would lead to an evacuation similar to last April’s, so that if police take action it doesn’t seem like they are arbitrarily targeting youngsters, many of whom are kids of color, hanging out there.

“Maybe have some singange, not when will an evacuation happen, but in the event we have to freeze, ‘This is what you can expect as a park resident,’ ” said Nicholas Ferreira, who lives Downtown and also sits on the Youth Committee. “I think that would make people think, ‘Okay, well, this actually exists — it’s not because it’s a bunch of brown people on the pier.’ ”

One Brooklyn Heights resident who witnessed officials defuse a large group of teens gathered in the park on an unusually warm day during schools’ midwinter break last February described their behavior — which she said escalated from authorities telling the kids to leave the meadow to them demanding they leave the neighborhood — as “inhumane.”

“It looked like they were being moved like cattle,” said Santia Palliccia. “I’m concerned that’s just the manner in which the officers are trained.”

Park honchos admitted they poorly handled last year’s forced evacuation, and said they are brainstorming ways to better communicate with patrons, but have not decided on a formal plan and said they can’t put up capacity signs because the maximum number of people allowed on the piers is contextual.

“We probably could have communicated better and that is something we are paying a lot of attention to,” Brooklyn Bridge Park spokeswoman Sarah Krauss said during Monday’s meeting. “We haven’t set a written plan. We’re thinking and talking about how we can improve our communication.”

The city also installed cameras along Joralemon Street last June to better monitor the foot traffic to and from the waterfront meadow, after some residents claimed that park-goers-turned-vandals were targeting their houses.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.

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