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Advocates say all parks not treated equally

When the first section of Brooklyn Bridge Park opens next month, it will have nine full-time Parks Enforcement Police patrol officers for 13 acres, about as many as the entire borough of the Bronx.

Advocates say that’s a glaring example of a two-tiered system in which wealthier areas get more protection.

The officers – city workers paid with funds raised from nearby property owners - will work in three shifts to provide 24-hour coverage, a level of security other parks don’t get.

“I would like to see the same coverage in the rest of the borough because Brooklyn is severely undermanned,” said Joe Puleo, vice president of DC 37 Local 983, which represents the officers.

A handful of parks –all of which are in Manhattan except for Brooklyn Bridge – have dedicated, full-time patrol officers, paid for by donors or property owners. All other parks share roaming patrols, paid for by the city

Geoffrey Croft, head of New York City Park Advocates, said there is an “enormous disparity between the publicly funded parks and the ones which receive private funding.”

Brooklyn has 15 dedicated city-funded patrol officers covering the rest of its 4,300 acres of parks. In Queens, 14 patrol officers handle more than 7,000 acres and in the Bronx, there are 10 for about 7,000 acres, according to the Park Advocates.

“This is a civil rights issue,” Croft said. “All communities deserve safe, well maintained parks, not just those in wealthy neighborhoods.”

The 35-acre Battery Park City, for example, has 36 full-time dedicated patrol officers, three times as many as cover the 7,400 acres of parks in Staten Island, the group said.

Parks Department spokesman Philip Abramson said focusing only on full-time patrol officers misses the point. He said that including Urban Park Rangers - who like patrol officers can write summonses and make arrests – and seasonal aides, who do not have police powers but wear uniforms, the city has some 700 people doing “security-related tasks.”

Samantha Bux, 27, of Harlem, who was in Prospect Park on a recent afternoon, called the number of patrol officers there “ridiculous.”

“I think they should up that number,” she said.

A spokeswoman for the Empire State Development Corp., which until recently shared responsibility for building the park with the city, said the security arrangement reflects the park’s “special need with respect to its isolated location on the waterfront.”

Annette Leach, 49, of Fort Greene, agreed.

“It's a small park,” she said. “The property value is very high and there are a lot of homeless people. I think they have to patrol that area more.”

Taneish Hamilton contributed to this story.

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