Private Security Workers Mishandle Muggings at Battery Park

"We keep the community safe," says Annettee Probst, a Parks Patrol Enforcement Officer, who works at Battery Park

Nancy Mercado, a Parks Enforcement Patrol Officer, helps keep Battery City Park safe. Her training at the New York Police Dept. prepared her for safety and medical emergencies. Photo: Clarence Elie-Rivera

By DIANE WILLIAMS

The fears of Battery Park City residents and community leaders were confirmed Dec. 19 when two teenage residents were violently attacked and one was knocked unconscious.

Witnesses said newly hired AlliedBarton security workers failed to intervene and delayed calls to 911 and the police for some 20 minutes. They chose to call their supervisors first.

The late night mugging sparked community outrage at officials of the Battery Park City Authority who had ignored the wishes of residents by signing a $2.1 million contract with the private security firm AlliedBarton to provide yellow-jacketed “safety ambassadors” to patrol the 92-acre riverfront community in Lower Manhattan.

Residents said the authority’s board of state-appointees breached their trust when it obscured the bidding process, excluded residents’ feedback and ignored lawmakers’ requests to table the private contract they signed last December.

On Dec.19, a snack run to Shake Shack went horribly wrong when two teenagers were beaten and robbed by at least 10 teens near a dark alley in Battery Park City at 10:30 p.m. One victim was left unconscious and suffered a fractured skull and bleeding in his brain; he was hospitalized. There are reportedly no surveillance cameras in the area.

Political leaders, including City Council member Margaret Chin, Borough President Gale Brewer, and other state representatives, said in a joint statement that the authority’s decision to replace city Park Enforcement Patrol Officers with private security guards was “particularly troubling.” They wrote, “This brutal assault and AlliedBarton’s inadequate response both underscore our worst fears.”

In a statement, the authority said AlliedBarton ambassadors “acted appropriately by contacting NYPD, EMT services and the PEP.”  Officers with the Parks Enforcement Patrol (PEP) are Local 983 members.

The authority’s statement is contradicted by an official police report and eyewitness accounts.

“The unfortunate mishandling of this violent crime shows how ineffective AlliedBarton is,” said Local 983 President Joe Puleo. “They have no training or authority to make arrests or handle serious crimes and are in no way a replacement for city Parks Enforcement Patrol Officers.”

For years, the authority paid the Dept. of Parks and Recreation $2.5 million annually for the services of 45 PEP Officers, who are peace officers authorized to issue summonses and make arrests. But that contract expired in January.

The authority has not said how many PEP Officers—if any at all—will continue to patrol Battery Park City.

At a discordant Dec. 16 community meeting with the authority, resident Pat Smith, a condo board president, said, “Private security does the worse thing in the world; it makes you feel safe when you are not.”

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