Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Pregnant Woman Assaulted In Riverside Park In Off-Leash Dog Incident


By Geoffrey Croft

A woman who is seven months pregnant was punched in the face in Riverside Park after a confrontation with a man over her unleashed dog, NYC Park Advocates has learned.    

The 39-year-old upper Westside resident was in the park on Sunday night with her dog off-leash at 7:40 p.m. when she was confronted by a man in his 40's who complained about her dog being off leach according to the police.

He took out his phone and tried to take a photograph of her and she put her hand up to block him and he punched her once on the left side of the face before fleeing northbound in the park.

She was not seriously injured. 

Non arrests have been made.

The victim posted her account on FaceBook.
"Safety alert: I was physically assaulted in Riverside Park last night by a white male, late 30s to early 40s, Irish looking, around 5’7 or 5’8, stocky, wearing a navy blue or black skull cap and navy or black fleece with Yankees embroidered on the left side. 

I admit I let my dog off leash an hour before offleash hours (approximately 7:45pm actually, but it was freezing last night and I didn’t want to wait until 9pm). He said he wanted to call his brother who is in “law enforcement” and come to arrest me, and he was enforcing the law in the meantime. I quickly apologized and leashed my dog — small, female, border collie who was hiding from the yelling man. I even acknowledged my neglect and offered to wait for his brother. I’m always willing to own my mistakes. However, I think this made him even more agitated. He said he was going to take a photo of me, and put the phone close to my face so I naturally put my hand out since he was getting closer to me, and that’s when he punched me in the face. I called the cops and an ambulance came since I’m 7 months pregnant. 

I was slightly puffy and dizzy, but the gloves probably saved me from major bruising or broken skin. Again, I admit I (like many others routinely do) let my dog offleash too early, but a freezing Sunday eveningtypically means very few people in the park. In fact, there was only one other woman around who also had her two dogs offleash, and heard the man yelling from afar, but did not see it. I believe this man lives in the 80s or 90s near Riverside. Based on his level of anger, most likely has a temper issue that neighbors have encountered. If you have any information on this man, please message me."

Friday, January 12, 2018

Central Park: Police Officer Steven McDonald Honored At His Old Precinct

"There is more love in this city than there are street corners,”  -  Steven McDonald 

Patti Ann McDonald, wife of the late NYPD Det. Steven McDonald, attended the unveiling of his memorial  with their son, NYPD Sgt. Conor McDonald at the Central Park Precinct. A year after being assigned to the park he was shot three times by a fifteen-year-old who the officer was questioning, his wife was pregnant with Conor at the time of  the shooting.  “I forgive him and hope that he can find peace and purpose in his life,” Steven said in a statement read by his wife at his son’s baptism held in a chapel at Bellevue Hospital in early 1987. (Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on Images to enlarge


By Geoffrey Croft

One year after the passing of police officer Steven McDonald the city honored the hero with a plaque which was unveiled at his old precinct in Central Park.  

The touching ceremony was attended by family and friends and follow officers who worked and knew the beloved officer and many others who were there to pay their respects to a fallen brother who had inspired so many.

NYPD officer Steven McDonald in 1986, at age 29, the year he was shot and paralyzed in Central Park.  He was shot a year after being assigned to the Central Park Pct and 20 months after becoming a police officer. He was  and continues to be an inspiration to countless officers and will remain an enduring spirit for the city.  

He is survived by his wife, Patti Ann, and son Conor who followed in his father’s footsteps and became a forth generation police officer when he joined the force in 2010.  He is now a sergeant in the NYPD. 

McDonald’s wife was pregnant at the time with their only child, Conor was born six months after the shooting. 

Those attending the standing room only ceremony included Mayor Bill de Blasio, NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill, former NYPD Commissioner William Bratton, former Mayor David Dinkins, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, and  Cardinal Timothy Dolan who presided over a funeral mass for McDonald at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. 

The family's deep faith was also in attendance.

Steven McDonald was paralyzed after being shot in Central Park and was confined to a wheelchair and a ventilator.  The incident shocked the city.   

The Mayor said the plaque will be a reminder of McDonald’s life, that "we should all be about serving others, should all be about protecting others, and forgiving those we come across that do the wrong thing as well as celebrating those who do the right thing.  That's what his life was about and it was so extraordinary,” he said.    

The mayor spoke of the family’s courage, strength and their contribution to the city.   

"All eight and a half million New Yorkers owe a debt of gratitude to this family,” the Mayor said. 

"A man of faith like him believes its important to live the word.” 

The mayor then read a passage from the Corinthians 13:7-8.

“ Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 

Mayor Bill de Blasio speaking at the moving plaque dedication ceremony on Wednesday.  

NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill praised Patti-Ann for all the support she has given to Department over the years.   

Commissioner O’Neill said he probably met officer McDonald for the first time right outside the precinct's front door when he was commanding officer for Central Park.

"The first time I met him I knew he was a special person,”  O’Neill recalled.  

“To be able to live your life incapacitated like that physically but certainly not mentally,  and to share that message of love is pretty special. I’m not sure they’re too many people on this planet that can do that."  

The police commissioner spoke of the incredible impact Steven had not only on the NYPD family but on the city and beyond. 

"You live a legacy of hope, of forgiving, not hating,” he said.  

"His legacy carries on, gives us hope to live in peace and make this world a better place.” 

Steven’s son Conor said the days before his father’s death were the worst of his life. He appreciated the loyalty and love his family received since his father was shot and since his passing.  He credited this support for giving him the strength to carry on. 

“My father was giant in my life, he was my hero, he gave me all the opportunities I have,” said Conor, 30,  who was born three months after the shooting to the newlyweds. 

“Steven was an exceptional human, the best of the best. He was a loyal and loving husband and a devoted and a very passionate father,”  Steven's widow Patti-Ann McDonald said.

"Even before he was shot by a 15-year-old boy Steven always believed it was his duty to spread God’s message of love,” Mrs. McDonald said.

"No matter what happened he always believed in the good of everyone from his time as a Navy Corpsman to his career as a dedicated cop," she said.   

“Steven always put others before himself to fulfill his life of service. Steven made life confined to a wheelchair and a ventilator look extremely easy.  He never showed the pain he suffered each and everyday while going though daily medical procedures that were excruciating. He never complained about the pain that would wake him up on a constant basis.  Steven lived life with a purpose to show us a better way." 

Patti-Ann McDonald, with her son Conor by her side, addressing the crowd.  

Patti-Ann read an anonymous letter her husband received a few years after the shooting the family found inspiration from. The author said he was knitting a sweater for their young son.   

Mrs. McDonald said at times when she and her son became bitter and sad about the pain and suffering Steven had to endure he would read them the letter to "show the purpose of his sacrifice." 

The letter came from a cyclist who was in the park that fateful Saturday in 1986.  The bike rider wrote that he had "a strong premonition that something was going to happen to him." He credited the officer for protecting him that day.  

“I knew something was wrong I just didn’t know what,” the moving letter dated March 16,1992 said in part. 

He was supposed to ride three or four laps around the park that day but stopped after one. He said he entered the park on East 91st Street but felt a very strange sensation as he headed north.  

"By the time I reached the furthest norther part of the park I was in a total state of dread.  I knew something was wrong, I jus’t didn’t know what. I had left my Church many years ago but I  started praying and promising god that if I just got passed that part of the park then I would return home without cycling the laps I had planned."  

He wrote that by the time he had circled around and reached the southern part of the park police cars were screaming past him racing north.

“I had never seen so many. But now I knew that whatever it was I had been feeling had just been answered for me by those cars."     

After he got home he heard on the news what had happened. 

"You see I always felt after that time that you had somehow protected me,"  Patti-Ann continued to read, her voice cracking.

"I don’t know how I don’t know why but I felt that you personally had kept me safe and I owe you a lot for that. So I want to thank you and tell you that every stitch with which I knit this sweater for your little boy was knitted with love and deep thanks. I hope you and your family will always have love, health and great happiness.”

The author signed it, "Love a friend.”

Patti-Ann thanked the many people for their support and love. 

“Steven would tell us in the darkest times of your life, never let anger destroy your will to live. Give all the love that you have to give and make this world the best it can be."

She then thanked her son. 

“I just want to say I was so blessed. I was pregnant with Conor when all this happened. Conor has been the strength that got Steven through those many years and myself and has helped me tremendously this past year and I love you Conor,” she said.

The mother and son then hugged.

NYPD bagpipers played during the unveiling of the plaque.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan ended the moving ceremony with a Benediction.

"He became a part of every home, so how appropriate dear Lord that we would honor him in this park called New York City’s backyard." 

The plaque is inscribed with the words of St. Francis.

“Lord make me an instrument of your peace.”

Steven McDonald lived by that.

A man of deep faith he publicly forgave the cold-blooded teen eight months after the shooting from his bed at Bellevue Hospital. 

 “I feel sorry for him,” McDonald said of Jones.

 “I forgive him and hope that he can find peace and purpose in his life,” he said in a statement read by his wife at his son’s baptism held in a chapel at Bellevue Hospital in early 1987.

McDonald also expressed hope that he could further the dialogue with the offender after he was released from prison to inspire others.

Jones served nine years in prison for the shooting.  On September 9, 1995, three days after being released on parol, Jones was killed in a motorcycle accident.

Steven McDonald was appointed to the NYPD on July 16, 1984.  He was assigned to the Central Park Pct. a year later on July 8, 1985.

A year after being assigned to the park tragedy struck.   He was 29-year-old on that fateful summer day.  

Officer McDonald and his partner were working undercover at about 4:15 p.m. on Saturday, July 12, 1986.  They were patrolling in a gray unmarked anticrime car near the north end of the park when they spotted and began following three “suspicious” youths.  

McDonald followed them onto a wooded path near the Harlem Meer boathouse at 107th St. and East Drive.

One of the boys, 15-year-old Shavod Jones, pulled out a concealed .22 caliber,  “Saturday night special” revolver and fired several shots hitting the officer three times. One bullet hit McDonald in the left side of his neck, shattering into fragments that lodged in his spinal column.  

He collapsed onto the rain-soaked dirt and was rushed to the hospital.

McDonald was left a quadriplegic and unable to breath on his own. 

Responding police quickly arrested three suspects within minutes.  Jones was convicted by a jury in less than two hours and sentenced to 3-1/3-to-10 years, the maximum for a juvenile offender.

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson,  Mayor Bill de Blasio, and Cardinal Timothy Dolan share a light moment after the ceremony.   (Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on Images to enlarge.

After the plaque dedication ceremony Patti-Ann said she had many emotions.  She said she felt "very proud,” that the city erected the plaque in the Central Park Pct. where he worked.

"Steven loved working here,” she told A Walk In The Park.  

"Even after the shooting he used to come through the park and spend many hours here visiting the officers and to have his picture up here forever is just a beautiful thing especially after everything we’ve gone through this past year and what he lived through the past thirty plus years to see him being recognized like this, I mean it helps, it helps with the grieving process.  Just very grateful to the City of New York for their love and support and the New York City Police Department who have been phenomenal not just this past year but for the past thirty plus years,”  she said.   

The McDonald family were staples at many events in the city throughout the years.  They were  also frequent visitors at New York Ranger games.  She described her husband as a huge Ranger fan.

"It was something that Conor and him were able to do together," Patti-Ann recalled. 

“Obviously with Steven being a quadriplegic and using a respirator there weren’t many physical things they could do together and they were able to go to games together and experience that bonding together which was very nice.  I have pictures of Conor on Steven's lap when he was a little boy, two or three years old and when he got older standing next to him. It was something they both shared and loved together,” she said.        

"Go Rangers,” Patti-Ann said with a smile. 

Steven is an inspiration to countless officers and is an enduring spirt of the city.

“There is more love in this city than there are street corners, ” he wrote in his 1989 book, “The Steven McDonald Story.”

Steven McDonald with his wife Patti Ann and
Steven McDonald with his wife Patti Ann and 2-year-old son Conor in their Malverne home on June 1, 1989. (Photo: J. Michael Dombroski/Newsday)

Read More:

A Walk In The Park - January 10, 2017 - By Geoffrey Croft 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Barry Grodenchik Appointed As New Parks Committee Chair For City Council


By Geoffrey Croft

City Council Member Barry S. Grodenchik has replaced Mark Levine as the Chair of the Parks and Recreation Committee.
Grodenchik represents the twenty-third council district in Eastern Queens and was elected to the council in November 2015. 

“I am honored to have been elected by my colleagues as chair of the parks committee,"  Barry Grodenchik said in a statement.

"As a lifelong New Yorker who grew up in city parks and the current representative of a district with over a thousand acres of parkland, I welcome the opportunity to work to improve the parks that are vital to every community in the city.  

I thank Speaker Corey Johnson for his support and look forward to working with my colleagues on the committee as well as with Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver and his staff,” he said. 

The appointments were announced today at City Hall.

The new parks chair took the opportunity to address his fellow legislators on the floor. 

Council member Grodenchik spoke about the transformative impacts of parks.  

He recounted a story of his father Nathan and his friends walking across Crotona Park in the Bronx in the summer of 1935 and being approached by a "Parkie" who asked if they wanted to learn how to play tennis. 

His friends kept walking. Barry's father played tennis for 62 years until he was no longer able to at the age of 79.

Parks and Recreation Committee:  Barry S. Grodenchik-Chair,  Joseph Borelli, (Staten Island),  Justin Lee Brannan (Brooklyn), Andrew Cohen, (Bronx),  Costa Constantinides, (Queens), Mark Gjonaj (Bronx),  Andy King (Bronx),  Peter Koo (Queens), Francisco Moya, Queens),  Eric Ulrich, (Queens), and  Jimmy Van Bramer, (Queens). 

Friday, December 8, 2017

Homeless Man Attacks Park Police In Historic Rec. Center

Security Questioned at Recreation Center After Violent Incident. Two PEP officers were injured at the Asser Levy Recreation Center on November 27th when an emotional disturbed homeless man attacked them while attempted to place the man under arrest.  The suspect has six prior arrests.

The problems, officers say, were compounded by lax security at the center as well as  PEP's response to scene which was impeded by faultily city vehicles which delayed them getting to the scene in time to help their fellow officers.   (Photos By: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on images to enlarge


By Geoffrey Croft

A disturbed homeless man attacked park police in a historic public recreation center, NYC Park Advocates has learned.

Officers were repeatedly struck by a 6’3, 220 pound emotionally disturbed man wielding a 2x4 piece of wood. They were also hit several times with fists and elbows while they  attempted to place the man under arrest. 

Park Enforcement Patrol officers were assigned to a special detail on November 27th at the Asser Levy Recreation Center on E. 23rd Street to find Robert Robinson, 54,  who had previously threatened to stab center employees, repeatedly trespassed and caused disturbances inside the historic recreational facility.   

"He’s known to be a little hot headed, disorderly and violent," an officer said speaking on the condition of anonymity, like everyone interviewed, out for fear of reprisals from the agency.     

The day before the officers had warned Robinson that he was trespassing and he was going to be arrested if he came back.

The suspect, who one officer described as having the physique of a "linebacker," told them that he was going to enter the building the next day at 6:00am and, "he’s going see who’s going to stop him,” an officer said, adding, 'if he was going to be asked to leave he was going to fight somebody,’”  an officer recalled the suspect as saying. 

"This individual was very determined,”  an officer said.  “He advised us that he was going to come back the next morning and go in there one way for another. "

NYPD arrested him in August for trespassing at the center.

Just after 7:00am officers entered the building and asked the parks' employee manning the front desk if anyone had entered the building that was not member.

“I don't know” the worker responded according to officers.

Officers split up and began patrolling the building.  One spotted him taking a shower on the second floor and waited for his partner.

They approached him in the locker room after he was dressed and informed him that he was trespassing   

Officers tried to verbally coax him outside but he wouldn’t comply and became violent.

"Get the F**k out of here,”  said and began threatening the officers.

While officers instructed him to get on the floor and place his hands behind his head he said they were going to get into a fight he said, “You guys are going down,” an officer recounted.  

“He grabbed a 2x4 piece of wood from a window and began swingingly wildly."

Officers attempted to deplore pepper spray but both malfunctioned, and just trickled out according to officers.

"He was just wiping it off his face, like it was nothing.” 

Officers were hit several times with the wood and fists and elbows.  

While officers were trying to get him down and place his arms behind his back he tossed them off.

"I don’t know where he got his strength from but like you see in the movies he threw us both off him.” 

He took off.  He leaped down a flight of stairs and ran out of the building.

Officers gave chase but he disappeared in Stuyvesant Town–Peter Cooper Village.

After the incident authorities discovered ID’s and credit cards belonging to other people in large duffle bags found in four lockers he occupied.

Two days later NYPD arrested him up for smoking K2 synthetic marijuana on 29th Street & Park Avenue South. 

He was charged with Two counts of Assault on a Peace Officer and one count of Possession of a deadly Instrument with Intention to Cause Serious Physical Injury.

He is being held on $ 5,000 bail.

On Monday Robinson was indicted by a Grand Jury.  It is being determined whether he is fit to stand trial.  

He arraignment date in Supreme Court is December 19th. 

NYPD arrested him for trespassing in August.

City employees say Robinson and his female partner often sleep on the steps of the Historic Recreation Center.

Employees said she tried to gain access to the center on Wednesday to use the bathroom but was informed she was no longer allowed.

Security Breach  

The incident also highlights glaring security issues at the center.

Officers questioned why Robinson was being allowed to endanger not only the general public but other park employees by repeatedly being allowed inside without a membership.

When officers first arrived at the center last week the first thing they did was find the Parks Department employee at the front desk who is responsible foe scanning member ID’s.  They asked if anyone had entered the building who was not member.

"His response was, "'I don't know.’

"Your main function at that facility is to ensure that only members enter in and out," an  irate officer said. “He failed to do that." 

“So you’re telling me you don’t know?  It’s a security breach.  Anybody could be going in and out of the building.     

The department needs to be made aware of this,  You put the safety of the general public in jeopardy. 

Robinson told officers the center was feeding him free lunches during the summer, allowing him to shower and store his belongings for years. 

"The rec center personal was allowing him to come and go as he pleases for a really long time, in his head he didn’t think he was doing anything wrong," an officer said.

Several park employee said Robinson and a female partner often sleep on the steps of the center.  

There was also another factor why the police were not being call more frequently, fear. 

Several park employees said there was a reluctance among center workers to call 911 because they felt intimidated.

A center employee at the front desk this week said he is often the only employee when the center opens in the morning.  

"If I’m the only one here he’ll know it was me who called police,” the employee said.

Center personal also say that security is often non-existent and that they didn’t have a PEP officer for a month before the incident. They say they often rely on City Seasonal Aids (CSA's) for security who are not peace officers and have little training or authority. 

Responding To The Scene

Officers said they called agency's Central Communications for backup, a 10-13, several times during the ordeal including instructing them to call 911 but help didn’t arrive for approximately 15- 20 minutes. 

Several PEP officers responding to the emergency call had a disastrous time getting to the location due to inadequate vehicles they say.

A PEP officer coming from Hudson River Park (HRP) driving a Ford Escape with more than 144,000 miles stalled three times on the FDR Drive responding to the distress call. 

Another vehicle driven by a Manhattan North Sgt. hit a pot hole which knocked out the lights and sirens.

Another vehicle PEP is forced to use in HRP was parked on W. 23rd St. when the call came over but the "pizza delivery” style truck has no lights and sirens and has to follow normal traffic laws which delayed the response.   

"The response was such "cluster f**k,”  said one officer.  "Nobody got there in time.” 
"We could have gotten there in time,” the officer said.  

Following the incident HRP had a meeting with senior PEP management where the vehicle issue came up once again.  

2005 Ford Escape with more than 144,000 miles broke down three times while responding to the emergency call from officers.  Officers say the city vehicles impeded their ability to help their colleagues in time.

After the meeting officers at the PEP command were informed by Michael Dockett, Assistant Commissioner for Urban Park Service, and Edwin Rodriguez PEP Inspector,   that HPR said,  “There’s nothing we can do, its an HRP matter.’ 

Not true say officers who point out that HPR is in violation of their contract.  

For years the condition of PEP vehicles has been a major point of contention among officers. Officers say the issues has been brought up with no action.

"But this time people got hurt. This time two officers got beat up with nobody to get there in time to help.”  

"He picked up a two-by-four piece of wood and starting beating them,” an officer said. 

The city’s response - they took away the dangerous vehicle with 144,00 miles and replaced it with a golf cart.  

"So now the only car we have is a delivery truck with no light package. We can’t even transport prisoners in it. That’s is all we have. It's bad enough we can’t respond. This is where the terrorist attack happened.

"You can’t make this up. Nobody cares.” 

 (Photos By: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on images to enlarge

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Woman Struck By Hit & Run Driver In Prospect Park


A 51-year-old woman walking in Prospect Park was struck from behind by a vehicle that fled the scene according to police.

The incident occurred this morning at 4:55 a.m. on the West Drive near the Parade Grounds on the jogging path along the roadside.  

The victim, an Ocean Parkway resident, was taken to Methodist Hospital where she is being treated for a fractured spine and fractured pelvis.  

No witnesses. 

Police are checking nearby cameras to ID the vehicle.

- Geoffrey Croft

CUNY Professor Attacked After Trying To Stop Teens From Setting Fire In Staten Island Playground

Staten Island

By Geoffrey Croft

A professor at CUNY College of Staten Island was viscously beaten by a group of teens in a playground.

The victim was walking in the park when he saw a group of teenagers setting a fire and asked them to stop.

As he walked away, one of the men punched him in the back of the head, knocking him to the ground. The others punched and kicked the victim.

The victim was taken to Richmond University Medical Center where he was treated for a collapsed lung and contusions on the face.

No detailed description of the attackers.

Police are reviewing surveillance cameras and seeking information on between 10 and 12 teenagers in connection with the incident.

The incident occurred yesterday afternoon just after 12 noon inside Nicholas Lia Memorial Park at the corner of Saint Marks Place and Wall Street within the confines of the 120 Pct.

Read More:

WCBS -  December 7, 2017 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Queens Playground Gun-Point Robbery

The police released images of one of the suspects who accompanied a victim to the ATM machine.  (video below)


By Geoffrey Croft

Police are looking for two suspects wanted for a gun-point robbery in a Long-Island City playground.

The suspects approached two men in their 20s inside John F. Murray Playground  on November 29 at 6:30pm. near 45th Avenue and 11th Street.    

The robbers began a conversation  (a 23 year-old and a 24 year-old) which then turned into an armed robbery.  

One of the suspects lifted his shirt and revealed a gun in his waistband and demanded the victims’ cell phones and wallets, police said. 

 “You know what it is,” he said showing them the gun according to the police. 

The suspects then forced the 23 year-old to walk to Palace Fried Chicken on 44-45 21st St. a block away where they made him withdraw $100 from an ATM.

The suspects took the money and fled southbound on 21st Street. 

Both suspects are described as black males in their 20’s. One was wearing a grey,  blue jeans, hooded sweat shirt and red sneakers. 

The second individual (not pictured) is a male, black, in his 20s; last seen wearing a black and white varsity style jacket, black sweatpants and black sneakers.

Anyone with information in regards to this incident is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.

Read/View More

WCBS - December 5, 2017