Historic park fence finally repaired

A section of fence gets lifted into the park late last month. (Photo by Mark Thompson)

By Sabina Mollot

After years of delays due to budget and contractor related issues, work finally began to complete the restoration of the historic cast iron fence that surrounds Stuyvesant Square Park’s east section.

Starting late last month, large sections of the landmarked fence were hoisted in via crane as were the fence posts, which were placed temporarily on the lawn.

At some point in the coming months there will be a ribbon cutting, but in the meantime, the construction itself is something to celebrate for community activists who’ve been pushing for this project’s completion for 20 years.

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Man tries to lure girl at school fair

By Sabina Mollot
A man attempted to lure a girl at a street fair that was held by the Jack and Jill School two Saturdays ago, Town & Village has learned.

According to a spokesperson for the NYPD’s Deputy Commissioner of Public Information, an unknown man approached a six-year-old girl at the event, and asked where her dad was. He then told her she should go with him because he was her uncle, police said.

The school event was held on a public street.

The school event was held on a public street.

Mary Carroll French, the director at the school, told Town & Village that while she wasn’t a witness to the incident, she heard after the fact how a man had approached a former student who was at the event and spoke to her.

“It was what the NYPD would call attempted luring,” said Carroll French. But, she added, the girl didn’t respond to him. Additionally, the girl’s father was nearby as was another father and a sexton at the school.

“The sexton had his eye on him and was watching him,” she said. The sexton, then realizing the man was a stranger, shooed the man away and he left with his bike, although Carroll French said she didn’t know if he was riding it.

She noted that since the fair was held on a public street, East 16th Street between Rutherford Place and Third Avenue, anyone could walk through. The event was held from noon to 4 p.m. and Carroll French said she believed the man strode through later in the event. She added that parents at the school, which is for kids ages 2-5, have been alerted.

Police described the man as being black or Hispanic, approximately 6 ft. 1 in. and has curly or wavy hair.

The man’s actions were also mentioned in an email blast to neighbors from the Gramercy Park Block Association this past Tuesday. The email quotes a brief letter sent to parents from another local school that referred to the incident as an attempted kidnapping.

Last weekend, when another local school had a street fair, a couple of police officers were stationed nearby and this time there were no incidents, police said.

Repair of Stuyvesant Square Park’s historic fence to start soon, city says

Money was raised to fix the fence outside of Stuyvesant Square Park in 2012. (Photo by Michael Alcamo)

Money was raised to fix the fence outside of Stuyvesant Square Park in 2012. (Photo by Michael Alcamo)

By Sabina Mollot

It was almost two and half years ago, in June of 2012 when the last $600,000 needed for the restoration of Stuyvesant Square Park’s historic, cast iron fence and the surrounding sidewalk was finally allocated after years of fundraising. The project, which had been pushed by the Stuyvesant Park Neighborhood Association, eventually had a total price tag of $5.5 million, funded by local elected officials.

But today, work on the fence on the park’s east section, which needs some of its rotted pieces recreated, still hasn’t begun. A separate project to fix the park’s west section fence had been completed earlier. Work to accompany the fence project, such as fixing the damaged bluestone sidewalk, has also still not been done. Yet another long awaited and related project, to install a curb cut or ramp at the park’s eastern gate to allow access to wheelchair users, has also still not happened.

But fortunately for those whose who’ve been following the progress, or rather lack of it, change does finally appear to be on the horizon.

Community Board 6’s Parks Committee has been assured by the Parks Department that work will begin soon. Or rather, that it already has. Mark Thompson, who heads Community Board 6’s Parks Committee, said he’s been told the official start date of the project was October 20. However, he was also warned that this wouldn’t mean shovels would hit the ground on that date although work would begin internally on the project.

As for when the actual repairs will start, there still doesn’t seem to be a set date for that, and one local tree-planting and park activist, Michael Alcamo, has said he’ll believe it when he sees it.

Alcamo, a Stuyvesant Town resident, had spearheaded a letter writing campaign in 2012 that was instrumental in securing the last of the funds for the project from then-Borough President Scott Stringer. Though he conceded some of the blame for the delay on getting started was finding artisans capable of repairing the landmarked fence, which apparently there aren’t too many of, he said he is now concerned the project is no longer even considered a priority by the city. Alcamo referred to the mayor’s recently announced initiative to focus on the needs of parks in outer boroughs, particularly in poorer areas.

“Has the money been allocated to outer boroughs? That would be useful for the community to know,” said Alcamo.

He added that the fence isn’t even his main concern, but the cracked sidewalk is since that could pose a danger to pedestrians, as is the lack of of a wheelchair ramp.

Tree and park activist Michael Alcamo has been pushing the city to install a ramp for disabled park goers at the park’s entrance. (Photo by Michael Alcamo)

Tree and park activist Michael Alcamo has been pushing the city to install a ramp for disabled park goers at the park’s entrance. (Photo by Michael Alcamo)

“In 1990, the Americans With Disabilities Act required that public facilities, including parks, must be accessible to persons with disabilities,” said Alcamo. “The eastern side of Stuyvesant Square Park, which faces Stuyvesant Town, has not been in compliance for 24 years. We have been asking for four years for a curb cut in order to make the park accessible to persons of limited mobility.”

Alcamo, who recently founded an organization called Friends of Stuyvesant Square Park, had hoped to speed up the curb cut installation by asking Community Board 6 to pass a resolution calling for the work to be done, but, he said, the board’s Parks Committee declined. As for why the committee didn’t want to take that step, Thompson told Town & Village he didn’t think a resolution would be necessary since the community board has already had assurances from the Parks Department that the project will begin soon, including the installation of a ramp.

Thompson added that he did understand Alcamo’s concerns since early on the fundraising process, $500,000 of the project’s funds were reallocated to another Parks Department need.

“It shouldn’t have happened, but it did,” said Thompson. Because of this, CB6 has been “politely” nudging the city about the park from time to time. “We’re all concerned,” he said. But he added, “the money is allocated. It is happening.”

A rep for Parks echoed Thompson in saying the city is not redirecting the project’s cash elsewhere.

“No funds have been reallocated from Manhattan to the other boroughs and all the funds allocated for this project are intact,” Philip Abramson, a Parks Department spokesperson told T&V.

The contractor on the project is UA Construction, who was selected after the initially chosen vendor (chosen for being the lowest bidder) ended up not working out. UA Construction was the second lowest bidder. The lowest bidder, Abramson said, “was not successful in going through the pre-qualification process.”

He didn’t respond to a question about why the first company didn’t qualify though he did say that at this time UA Construction is working with the Department of Transportation on getting a permit for a street closure so work can begin.

Rosalee Isaly, the president of the Stuyvesant Park Neighborhood Association, said she’s had a recent discussion with Parks reps to make sure the dog walkers who come to use the park’s dog run will be able to access it while work is ongoing.

“They’ll be aware of them,” she said of the dog walkers. She added that come springtime, the park’s west side will also get some attention with the installation of an irrigation system. “All that planting that gets done needs water and the watering this past summer was torturous,” she said. “They had to drag in hoses.”

The labor-intensive act of planting should pay off in the spring though. Dozens of volunteers, mainly high school and college students, have been participating in monthly gardening days at the park to plant, paint benches and rake leaves. On a volunteer day in October, around 11,500 bulbs for tulips, daffodils and bluebells were planted.

“It’s really warming,” said Isaly. “I think it’s going to be spectacular spring in the park.”

A DOT spokesperson did not respond to a request from T&V asking about the status of the permit and where the street closures would be exactly.

Events in the community this week

The following community and entertainment events are taking place this week.

Gramercy quality of life forum on July 15

City Councilwoman Rosie Mendez

City Councilwoman Rosie Mendez (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

Manhattan Community Board Six and Gramercy Neighborhood Associates are co-hosting a community forum with representatives from NYC agencies, moderated by City Councilmember Rosie Mendez on July 15 from 6 to 8 p.m.
Agencies will include New York County District Attorney’s office, NYPD’s 13th and 17th Precincts, Department of Sanitation, Department of Transportation, Parks Department and Department of Homeless Services.
It will take place in the School of the Future at 127 East 22nd Street between Park Ave and Lexington Avenue. Panelists will address quality of life issues in the Gramercy neighborhood, including homelessness, safety, traffic and sanitation. Residents can submit questions prior to the forum or in written form during the event.
For more information, contact events@gnaonline.org or office@cbsix.org.

 

Lectures, dance lessons, kids’ events at Stuyvesant Square Park

Tango lesson at Stuyvesant Square Park (Photo by Ute Lechmig)

Tango lesson at Stuyvesant Square Park (Photo by Ute Lechmig)

The Stuyvesant Park Neighborhood Association presents the following upcoming events at Stuyvesant Square Park:
Lunch and Learn events take place on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Wednesday events, from 12:15-1 p.m., are hosted by NYU Hospital for Joint Diseases Horticultural Therapy and Integrative Health Programs. July 16: Mind body movement (meditation), July 23: Herbal tea party.
Thursday events, from 1:15-2 p.m. are hosted by Cornell University Cooperative Extension’s Jannie Wolff. July 24: Health and the uses of herbs.
Chair yoga Tuesdays with Birgit Nagele take place on July 15, 22 and 29 from noon-1 p.m. on the northwest lawn.
Tango Sundays with Esmerelda take place from 6-9 p.m. (beginner lessons at 6 p.m.) at the west fountain.
The NYC Parks Department presents “Play Mobile” on July 15 from 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
For updates and additional event information, visit spnanyc.org.

Movies on the Oval

Movies on the Oval has returned with a double-feature most Wednesdays through August 13 for ST/PCV residents and their guests. On July 16, 5 p.m. “The Croods,” 7 p.m. “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.”

 

Music Under the Stars

Kaissa

Kaissa

Waterside Plaza’s summer concert series, “Music Under the Stars,” has returned with Wednesday concerts at 7 p.m. each night. There will be a beer and wine bar, with snacks available at the concession stand or hardier fare at the Robbins Nest cafe. Seating is limited on the Plaza. Lawn chairs and blankets are welcome.
July 16, Kaissa will perform. Hailing from the Republic of Cameroon and its vibrant culture, singer Kaissa has become an unmistakable representative of African music. Rain date is July 17.

 

 

July10 David Hershey Webb 2013

David Hershey-Webb and Friends at Stuyvesant Cove Park last year

David Hershey-Webb and friends will return to Stuyvesant Cove Park to perform original folk, country rock and R&B music on Monday, July 14th at 6:30 p.m. The show is part of the free summer concert series presented by The Stuyvesant Cove Park Association. In the event of rain the performance will take place on Tuesday, July 15.

For even more events going on including outdoor concerts, theater, comedy, kids’ events and more see T&V’s Around & About section.

For free events happening throughout the city, see Cutting Corners.

For local fitness events like free yoga in Union Square and qi gong at Waterside, check out T&V’s Health & Fitness listings.

For the latest programming and special events at local houses of worship, there’s also the Religion in the Community listings.

Police Watch: Burglar hits Immaculate Conception Church, Former Beth Israel doctor sentenced

Compiled by Maria Rocha-Buschel

BURGLAR HITS IMMACULATE CONCEPTION CHURCH
Police are looking for a burglar who stole $11,000 in cash from the rectory at Immaculate Conception Church. The man entered the church at 414 East 14th Street on Sunday at 1:15 p.m. and then went into a bedroom located on the third floor rectory where he took the money from a nightstand, cops said. He is described as a light skinned man who was wearing a black baseball hat, brown shorts, white sneakers and a red t-shirt. Anyone with information about the burglary is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at (800) 577-TIPS. The public can also submit tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers Website at nypdcrimestoppers.com or texting TIP577 and their tips to 274637(CRIMES).

FORMER BETH ISRAEL DOCTOR CONVICTED
Lawrence Levitan, 58, was sentenced to six months of jail time and 1,000 hours of community service this past Tuesday. The former Beth Israel Medical Center ob-gyn pleaded guilty to grand larceny in the third degree this past February. At trial, he admitted to stealing $268,000 from the hospital by diverting insurance checks and cheating on his taxes.

CRAIGSLIST-SCAMMED IN COFFEE SHOP
Police arrested 24-year-old Dequaan Brown for a robbery inside the restaurant Coffee Shop at 29 Union Square West last Saturday at 2 p.m. A 26-year-old man told police that he was meeting Brown to buy a Galaxy 5 phone from him. He originally spoke to someone named Carlos that he found through Craigslist. They had agreed to meet in Union Square for the transaction but Carlos then called the victim at 1:45 p.m. and told him that he wouldn’t be able to make it but that his partner Dequaan would meet him instead. The victim told Carlos that he would wait for Dequaan in the Coffee Shop near the park. A few minutes later, the victim got a text from Brown asking for the location of the restaurant. When he arrived, he asked the victim if he had the money for the phone and after the victim gave him $400 in cash, Brown allegedly said, “I have a gun in my duffel bag. Don’t chase me.” He then walked out of the restaurant calmly and the victim followed him to the train station. They both ended up on a downtown Q train and the victim then asked the conductor to stop the train. The conductor stopped the train at Canal Street and the train doors opened, giving Brown the opportunity to run again. He allegedly attempted to flee but ran into two officers from the First Precinct. The victim told the police, “That’s the guy,” and Brown was arrested and brought back to the 13th Precinct.

NEIGHBOR HARASSMENT IN 19 STUY OVAL
A resident of 19 Stuyvesant Oval reported last Monday at 3:38 p.m. that she has been continually harassed by a neighbor in her building. She told police that she received two text messages from him and she was alarmed by the messages because they made no sense and were sexually explicit. She said that she ran into him on the street at East 18th Street and First Avenue. He started talking to her and made no sense, saying that she was yelling when she wasn’t and he told her, “You’re just another Jew.” The victim was alarmed by the incident and said anything else happens, she said that she wants to file an order of protection.

KNIFE PULLED AT WATERSIDE PLAZA
Police arrested 60-year-old Angel Fuentes for menacing inside 40 Waterside Plaza last Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. Police responded to the scene and a 55-year-old man told them that Fuentes allegedly came out of his apartment, displaying a kitchen knife and menaced him with it. At that point, the victim called the police and then met them in the lobby. Fuentes wasn’t in his apartment by the time police came but after conducting a canvass, they found him in the front of the building. He was also allegedly in possession of a small bag of marijuana.

‘PERVS’ NABBED IN UNION SQUARE
Police arrested two men for unlawful surveillance at the Union Square subway station last week. Thirty-seven-year-old Marquis Traynham was arrested last Thursday at 8:55 a.m. Traynham allegedly put an electronic recording device under the skirt of multiple women on a downtown 6 train and the subway stairs while the women were leaving the station. Police arrested 35-year-old Jose Quezada Veloz last Friday at 6:39 p.m. Veloz was seen standing directly under the right side of the stairs leading to the downtown 4/5/6 platform and he was allegedly looking up the skirts of women going up and down the stairs and also had his cell phone in video mode pointed directly under a woman’s skirt with the lens facing up.

HIT-AND-RUN ON EAST 23RD
A 48-year-old man reported that he was involved in a car accident opposite 400 East 23rd Street last Thursday at 10:05 a.m. He told police that he was driving west on East 23rd Street when a woman in a white sedan struck his car, causing him to hit a parked car. She then fled the scene west and onto First Avenue. There were no injuries and no arrests were made.

MOTORCYCLE STOLEN ON EAST 14TH
A 24-year-old man reported that his motorcycle was stolen after he parked it in front of 655 East 14th Street at midnight last Wednesday. He told police that he parked the bike there and when he went to retrieve it later on Wednesday, the bike was gone. The tow pound had no record of the bike being towed and Stuy Town security said that their cameras don’t face the area where the bike was removed from.

BAG STOLEN IN STUYVESANT SQUARE PARK
A 13-year-old boy reported that his bag while he was in Stuyvesant Square Park at the northeast corner of Perlman Place and East 15th Street last Friday at 2:45 p.m. He told police that he put his bag on a bench and walked around the park. When he went back to the bench, his bag, which contained his iPhone, Nintendo 3DS, a Pokemon game and school supplies, was gone.

FOUR NABBED IN BRAWL OUTSIDE STUY TOWN
Police arrested 42-year-old Christopher Todd, 32-year-old Anana Wiggins, 39-year-old Anika Reynolds and 33-year-old Eric Gersbeck for assault in front of 647 East 14th Street last Thursday at 8:34 a.m. The four allegedly got into a fight in front of Stuyvesant Town. All of them sustained minor scratches and refused medical attention at the scene.

CYCLIST KICKED ON SECOND AVENUE
A 22-year-old cyclist reported that he was assaulted while he was riding his bike at the northeast corner of Second Avenue and East 15th Street last Thursday at 7 p.m. He told police that he was riding his bike and an unknown person kicked him, causing him to fall off the bike and cause minor bleeding due to a cut on his knee. The person then fled in an unknown direction and no arrests have been made.

IPHONE STOLEN FROM FARMER’S MARKET
A 22-year-old woman reported that her iPhone was stolen while she was in Union Square Park at East 17th Street last Saturday at 5 p.m. She told police that she was working at the farmer’s market and left her cell phone on a table unattended while she went to the bathroom and when she returned, her phone was missing. She said that she tracked the phone and it was located at First Avenue and St. Mark’s Place.

CYCLIST HIT-AND-RUN BY CABBIE
A 44-year-old man reported that he was involved in an accident while he was on his bike in front of 160 West 25th Street last Thursday at 7:30 p.m. He told police that he was riding his bike at the location when a taxi hit his bike from the rear. The victim then fell off his bike and got a bruise on his head and hand, and he also complained of back pain. The taxi fled the scene and a canvass was conducted of the area with negative results. The victim could only remember that it was a taxi that hit him and had no other information.

IPHONE STOLEN AT STUY TOWN PARTY
An 18-year-old woman reported that her phone was stolen while she was inside 330 First Avenue on Saturday, May 17 at 11:59 p.m. She told police that she had left the phone inside the apartment while there for a friend’s party and when she went back to retrieve the phone, it was missing. The phone was tracked through “Find my iPhone” to a location in Brooklyn.

MAN BUSTED FOR KNIFE AT FIRST AVE L
Police arrested 28-year-old Nicholas Kleoudis for criminal possession of a weapon last Saturday at 11:28 p.m. at the First Avenue L station. Kleoudis allegedly had a black metal clip attached to his front right pants pocket and upon further investigation, it was determined to be a gravity knife, police said.

ARREST MADE FOR ‘POT’ POSSESSION
Police arrested 29-year-old Anthony Womack for unlawful possession of marijuana last Saturday at 4:20 p.m. in the Union Square station. Womack was sitting on the steps in the station, blocking passenger movement. When asked, he had no form of identification to give the police and a bag of alleged marijuana was recovered from his left front pants pocket.

NO ARRESTS IN EAST 15TH ST. TAUNTING
A 41-year-old woman reported that she was harassed at the northeast corner of East 15th Street and the FDR on Sunday, May 18 at 4:30 p.m. She told police that someone approached her, pulled her hair and then ran away. When she confronted him, he told her, “We were playing a game.”

‘Orange is the New Black’ author talks prison reform at East End Temple

East End Temple Rabbi David Adelson with Piper Kerman, author of a memoir that inspired the Netflix series, “Orange is the New Black” (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel

East End Temple Rabbi David Adelson with Piper Kerman, author of a memoir that inspired the Netflix series, “Orange is the New Black” (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel

By Maria Rocha-Buschel
When Piper Kerman graduated from Smith College in the early ‘90s, she was looking for an adventure. But she didn’t expect that a little more than a decade later in 2004, she would be entering a federal correctional facility in Danbury, Connecticut as a result of that adventure. This was the start of a year of hard time that would inspire her memoir, which in turn inspired the new hit show on Netflix, “Orange is the New Black.”
Kerman spoke about her experience at the East End Temple last Friday to a packed room after the synagogue’s weekly Shabbat services. The temple often invites speakers to come discuss secular issues and Rabbi David Adelson said that he was enthusiastic about having the author be a part of that event.
“It’s such a widely recognized show and she’s an expert in prison reform,” Adelson said. “I’m pleased with how many people came. So many people wanted to hear the true story and learn about real human rights issues. We have speakers come talk about issues that reflect Jewish values, human rights issues and justice. Judaism speaks to all issues of society and it’s about how we live our Jewish values.”
Kerman was indicted six years before she actually went to prison, for carrying a suitcase full of drug money from Chicago to Brussels. In her post-college adventures, she had become involved in a relationship with an older woman who also happened to be a drug dealer.
“I followed her around the globe,” Kerman said. “I was telling myself that being around those people was one thing but it came to the point where I crossed the line. I knew it wasn’t legal. It scared the pants off me and soon after that I left.”
The six-year delay for her imprisonment was due to the drug kingpin at the top of the operation being taken into custody not long after Kerman had signed a plea agreement, giving her a 15-month sentence or 13 months with time off for good behavior, which is the amount of time she ultimately ended up serving.
“We never knew how long it was going to take and during the first year I knew I was going to prison, I was just flat on my back, thinking: I’ve ruined my life, this was unethical and wrong, I threw my life away,” she said.
“After that I was thinking, my life might be over but I might as well get on with it. I just had to manage the looming idea of prison. And all of our lives contain that; sometimes you can predict what’s coming but sometimes not.”
Kerman is now an advocate for prison reform and addressed a number of the problems with the prison system that she encountered during her time behind bars. Much of her coping and means of survival came down to luck and circumstance, she noted.
“Not all Americans are policed in the same way,” she said. “Practices like stop-and-frisk send people into the system, often unnecessarily and Americans are prosecuted in different ways. My story is a great example of that. There’s no question that the staff in the prison treated me differently because of the color of my skin.”

Piper Kerman speaks to a packed temple. (Photo by Maria Rocha Buschel)

Piper Kerman speaks to a packed temple. (Photo by Maria Rocha Buschel)

She also noticed that a number of the women that she was in prison with had a lot more time than she did and she questioned whether the crimes they committed were really that much worse than hers. She found that wasn’t the case.
“It has to do with socioeconomic status and race,” she said. “Most of the women I was in prison with were too poor to afford an attorney. I was lucky enough that I was able to afford an attorney but 80 percent of the people in prisons are too poor to afford a lawyer.”
Her fiancé (now husband) Larry Smith, was able to visit her every weekend and she said that his visits helped keep her going.
“Larry really stuck by me,” she said. “Knowing that someone else sticks by you is really powerful.”
Having a positive mental state helped her through the experience and she added that connections with people on the outside can have a huge impact on motivating women to finish their sentences and get released.
“Relationships in prison are important but relationships on the outside are also important,” she said. “They remind you that you’re going home. Having someone who cares enough is a powerful reminder that you will one day return to the outside world.”
The facility where Kerman spent most of her sentence is being converted into a men’s facility. Currently, that Danbury facility is the only prison that holds women in the federal system in the northeast from Maine to Pennsylvania and after the conversion, those prisoners will be sent to a new facility in Alabama. Because so many women in the prison system are mothers, Kerman noted, this could have a detrimental effect on the relationships those prisoners have.
“It’s very cruel and capricious,” she said. “It has a negative impact on public safety and will sever powerful incentives to motivate them to come home. To have Mom dispatched to Alabama is like sending her to Mars.”
Many of the women in prison with Kerman, many of whom were mothers, were incarcerated for crimes similar to hers: non-violent drug offenses.  She said that her experience was different from the popular images of prisons as places of relentless violence because most of the people locked up were non-violent offenders who had long sentences because they had poor legal representation.
“Women’s prisons are much less likely to be violent and these women are emblematic of the people that we’ve been putting in jail,” she said, adding that there has been incredible growth in the prison population since the 1980s. According data from to the U.S. Department of Justice, there are currently 2.3 million people in jails in the United States, compared to under 500,000 in 1980.
One of the things that interests Kerman the most in terms of prison reform is sending fewer people there in the first place. She noted that there should be decriminalization for things like drug possession and shorter sentences for other offenses because longer sentences can ultimately be counterproductive, since it can be difficult to adjust back to life outside.
“In my mind, the war on drugs is a complete failure,” she said. “It’s cheaper and easier now to get access to certain drugs and (putting people in prison) hasn’t made a dent in that type of crime.”

Dangerously low branch cut from tree at Stuyvesant Square Park

A tree branch that at its lowest point hovered six feet away from the ground was cut off on Tuesday, following a tragedy earlier in the week when a woman was killed by a falling tree in a Queens park. The left circle shows a weakness in the branch while the right one is the tree's lowest point. Photo by Michael Alcamo

A tree branch that at its lowest point hovered six feet away from the ground was cut off on Tuesday, following a tragedy earlier in the week when a woman was killed by a falling tree in a Queens park. The left circle shows a weakness in the branch while the right one is the tree’s lowest point.
Photo by Michael Alcamo

By Sabina Mollot

Following a horrific incident of a tree falling over in a park in Queens, killing a pregnant woman last Sunday night, on Tuesday, the Parks Department cut down a large branch on a tree in Stuyvesant Square Park that had been hanging dangerously low since the winter.

It was local tree advocate Michael Alcamo who’d noticed that the branch, which was around 30 feet long and on a tree that’s located near one of the park’s east side entrances, was becoming a potential hazard.

Two weeks ago, Alcamo, a resident of Stuyvesant Town, reported the problem to the Parks Department, where a rep thanked him for the heads up and said the alert had been sent to a forestry director. However, as of Monday, the park branch remained hanging lower than ever, Alcamo said.

After being contacted by Town & Village for comment, a rep for the department, Philip Abramson, responded the following day to say that the tree limb had been removed. Abramson added that some other pruning work was also done in the park.

Meanwhile, Alcamo, who’s convinced the city to plant over 300 street trees around the Stuyvesant Town and Stuyvesant Square areas in recent years, has also always been vigilant about checking on the status of street and park trees, seeing if they need water or attention for other reasons like pedestrian safety.

In his letter to Parks Borough Commissioner Bill Castro, dated July 25, Alcamo made mention of the fact that an incident not too dissimilar from the tragedy in Queens had also occurred in Stuyvesant Square Park. It was six years ago, he noted, when social worker Alexis Handwerker, who’d been sitting in the park, was badly injured when an oversized tree branch came crashing down on her. After five years of litigation, in February, 2012, Handwerker finally reached a settlement with the city for $4.1 million.

“We ask the city to dedicate only a small portion of the amount it paid in that settlement to tree care and preventive maintenance in Stuyvesant Square Park,” said Alcamo. “We must do everything we can to prevent accidents, and make the park safe and enjoyable for all patrons.”

As for the tree in Queens’ Kissena Park, when it came down, it almost immediately killed 30-year-old Chinese emigrant Yingyi Li. In a New York Post article on her death, park goers and State Senator Tony Avella put the blame on a lack of maintenance for the park’s trees.

Alcamo suggested that Parks employees make it a monthly task to check which park trees could use pruning, specifically for safety reasons. In response, Abramson told T&V that the park is inspected “regularly for any potential tree concerns.” There was no response to a question of how the tree ended up falling in Kissena Park.

Alcamo said he believes the tree in question at Stuyvesant Square, an American elm labeled number 162, was weakened over the winter due to having snow and ice pile onto the branches. The low hanging branch was not far from the entrance that’s close to the emergency room at Beth Israel. It’s heavily used by hospital employees as well as parents walking their kids to the nearby Jack & Jill nursery school.

Stuyvesant Square Park, located between 15th and 17th Streets and separated into two sections by Second Avenue, is maintained by the Parks Department. The Stuyvesant Park Neighborhood Association members as well as other volunteers also help oversee the park. Recently, Alcamo founded a group he calls Friends of Stuyvesant Square Park, and said he plans to recognize groups and businesses that support the park along with other local efforts.