by Diane S. Williams, DC 37 | December 03, 2015
NEW YORK – Pushback from an irate corps of residents, the local community board and AFSCME Local 983 (DC 37) has temporarily blocked a plan by the Battery Park City Authority to sign a $2.1 million contract with a private security firm to replace NYC Parks Enforcement Patrol officers (PEP) with low-wage private security guards in the lower Manhattan community.
“PEP officers are far more qualified than any rent-a-cop from AlliedBarton,” said Joe Puleo, president of Local 983.
The Battery Park City Authority, the New York state agency that manages the riverfront neighborhood just a few blocks from the site of the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks, approved the contract but delayed a formal vote until mid-December after community and union leaders blasted its lack of transparency.
“PEP officers patrol the 92-acre community Park City and we are the reason crime in that neighborhood is virtually nonexistent,” Puleo said. PEP officers receive 12 weeks of rigorous training at the New York Police Department’s academy. As peace officers, they are authorized to issue summonses and make arrests.
“Our members undergo extensive physical training and psychological background checks with the NYPD and the FBI,” Puleo said. AlliedBarton Security Services workers meet none of these standards and have no policing authority.
During a Community Board 1 meeting, John McArdle, AlliedBarton’s regional operations manager, said the company’s safety ambassadors would be a valuable “deterrence” against crime. But Ninfa Segarra, the board’s co-chair, slammed the claim, saying, “You may be very nice, but you have no authority whatsoever.”
Others residents called the authority’s actions “dictatorial” and “crazy,” and a move toward a “police state.”
PEP officers set the safety benchmark for parks conservancies at Central Park, Brooklyn Bridge Park and other green spaces around New York City, Puleo said. As first responders, city PEP officers safely evacuated thousands of people and their pets from Battery Park City during the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001 and during Hurricane Irene in 2011 and Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
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