In Pilot Program, Battery Park City to Add Security with Enforcement Powers

Allied Universal Ambassadors patrol along the west side of the Battery Park City ball fields. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Jan. 10, 2018

The Battery Park City Authority is preparing to beef up security in the neighborhood.

More than two years after its controversial move to replace the city’s Parks Enforcement Patrol (PEPs) with private security, the authority says it plans to add officers with “special patrol status” who can write summonses and make arrests. The additional officers, more highly trained and with enforcement powers not held by the current security, known as Ambassadors, would be hired on a trial basis, according to Nicholas Sbordone, the authority’s communications director. Allied Universal, the current security firm, would supply the new officers.

“The goal is to have a pilot program up and running for the summer,” Sbordone told the Trib. The NYPD still needs to sign off on the plan and the number to be hired is yet to be determined.

In a resolution passed last week, Community Board 1’s Battery Park City Committee called for the hiring of peace officers. The neighborhood has one of the lowest crime rates in the city and is part of the large swath of Lower Manhattan that is covered by the 1st Precinct. But Tammy Meltzer, the committee’s chair and a vocal advocate for more enforcement, said the NYPD “can only do so much” with its limited manpower. And the Ambassadors, while “responsive in many ways,” Meltzer said, can’t enforce park rules. She cited Roosevelt Island, also under a state authority, as a precedent. Peace officers, privately hired by the state, patrol the island though they are not an adjunct to another force.

“We’ve been reported as one of the most affluent, loveliest places, which then attracts a certain level of crime, petty crime and vandalism and backpack thievery and other things that are not, thankfully, as painful as 911 emergencies, such as shootings and things like that,” Meltzer said at the committee’s Jan. 3 meeting. “But there is the level of quality of life that is different here than it is other places.”

“And don’t forget our population has really boomed,” added Maria Smith, a public member of the committee and longtime Battery Park City resident. “Since 9/11 we’ve got a heck of a lot of people on the promenade who don’t know the rules, bicyclists, tourists, more people living here and we’re experiencing real growing pains. And I think the 1st Precinct does a fine job but they’re stretched all over the place.”

The committee said they also want to see better enforcement of street parking rules that would help cut down on parking in bus stops and crosswalks. Like the PEPs, the peace officers will not be armed, according to the authority.

“Ill welcome anyone who wants to do enforcement here,” Dep. Inspector Mark Iocco, commanding officer of the 1st Precinct, told the Trib in an interview.

Iocco called the low-crime neighborhood “the least of my troubles in the 1st Precinct,” but said Battery Park City continues to get patrol coverage, no less so because the Ambassadors walk the area. “Our patrols increase when warranted.” Iocco cited the precincts successful actions last spring after hearing about teens who had been harrassing strangers. Still, he noted, any additional people, agencies, peace officers that can help us with eyes and ears, they’ll be more than welcome—so we’re not the only ones doing the enforcement.

The authority’s announced decision in October, 2015, to replace the PEPs sparked outrage among some Battery Park City residents, their anger heightened because the community had not been consulted. It was a move that followed long-standing complaints by some in the neighborhood that the PEPs often lacked a visible presence and authority officials said staffing was unpredictable. Since that rocky start, Allied Universal, the national security firm hired by the authority, has received mostly high marks by the community board. The Ambassadors have proved to be far more visible than the PEPs and their boss more accessible. Patrick Murphy, Allied Universal’s director of security for the neighborhood, gives incident updates at Battery Park City Committee meetings and attends monthly 1st Precinct Community Council meetings.

“But there are certain things that [the Ambassadors] cannot do no matter how much we would like them to,” Meltzer said. “They can’t arrest people, they can ask people to enforce the rules, but they don’t have a lot of teeth behind it.”