Teens Brutally Attacked; BPC Private Security Response Under Scrutiny

An AlliedBarton security worker stands watch Wednesday night on the terrace above the Battery Park City ball fields. The teens who were attacked had left Shake Shake across Murray Street and climbed the stairs to the terrace, where they were confronted by about 10 youths. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Jan. 07, 2016

Two local 16-year-old boys were beaten last month, one of them robbed and seriously injured, near the Battery Park City ball fields. The attack occurred one day after private security went on duty in the neighborhood, and the victims families’ complaints about how the security workers responded to the incident—only now being publicly reported—may heighten the fervor of residents who opposed the Battery Park City Authority’s hiring decision.

The attack occurred around 10 p.m. on Saturday Dec. 19, after the boys, along with two girls, 15 and 16 years old, had left nearby Shake Shake. The four were followed, then surrounded, by an estimated 10 youths, said to be 14 to 18 years old, on the terrace above the ball fields, according to police and the families of the four friends.  

“One boy was knocked unconscious by six of the attackers who then stole his wallet, kicking him while he lay on the ground,” the parents, who asked that their families remain anonymous, said in a joint email to the Trib. “The other was punched and kicked trying to fend off four attackers. Both went to the emergency room. One was released Sunday morning. The other suffered a concussion, has a skull fracture and bleeding in his brain in three places. His eye swelled shut and has been under intense monitoring ever since.”

The Battery Park City Authority’s move to replace most Parks Enforcement Patrol officers with “ambassadors” from AlliedBarton Security Services, who have no enforcement powers but are meant to serve as a larger, more visible force to deter misconduct, drew criticism from local residents who said they feared diminished security in the neighborhood. The PEPs are still in full force in Battery Park City until their contract, now the subject of negotiations between the authority and the city Parks Department, ends on Jan. 31.

One of the two girls in the foursome told the Trib that when it became clear that they were being surrounded by the large group of youths, the boys told the girls to keep walking so they wouldn’t get hurt. Just beyond a set of stairs leading to the terrace, she said, they found one of the new security guards and asked for help. Turning around to see their friends, she said, they saw the two boys being beaten.

“[The security guard] started walking to get a better view of what was going on and my friend and I noticed that he wasn’t really making an effort to approach them quickly or to split up the attack,” the girl said. “Once he got to a spot where he could see the attack he stopped. He pulled out a walkie-talkie and told us he’s not allowed to intervene but he can call for help.”

She continued: “We were screaming at him, ‘Help us! Help us, please!’ and he continued talking on the walkie talkie and described the situation. So my friend and I decided that if he’s not going to do anything we started walking towards them, yelling at them. Once we started walking, that’s when he started walking behind us towards them, beginning to yell at the kids, too, saying, ‘Get away. Get away.’” At that point, she added, the attackers fled.

The girl said a second security guard quickly arrived and called the PEPs, who then called police and an ambulance. “They never actually came to see if our friend was ok,” she said of the private security men. “It wasn’t until the park rangers came that they actually walked over and saw that he was on the ground.”

The PEPs, she said, questioned several of the younger kids in the group who had not been involved in the beating and then let them go.

A Parks Department spokeswoman confirmed that the PEPs, called in by AlliedBarton, questioned “a group of teens to assess their involvement” and determined that they had not participated in the attack.

According to the parents, police have identified one of the attackers, who they were told has a previous record. No arrests have been made, police say.

In response to questions about the incident, an AlliedBarton spokeswoman declined to comment and referred the Trib to the Battery Park City Authority. The authority replied to questions about the AlliedBarton response with the following statement: “The AlliedBarton Battery Park City Ambassadors were the first to respond to the scene and contacted NYPD and EMT services as well as the PEP immediately. PEP responded to the scene based on the notification of AlliedBarton. The First Precinct has an open case regarding the assault and we do not want to interfere with the investigation.”

Geoffrey Croft, president of NYC Parks Advocates and an outspoken critic of the AlliedBarton contract, first reported the attack on his organization’s website. He said the incident reinforces the worries that he and others had voiced.

“Exactly what residents had been concerned about is exactly what happened,” Croft said. “And it occurred 24 hours after these guys started to work.

It is pretty shocking, he added, that the Battery Park City Authority thought so little about the safety of its residents when making this irresponsible decision. Where is the governor on this?

Although it was the nearby presence of an AlliedBarton employee that led to the first call for help (it is unclear where the closest PEPs were patrolling), parents of the teens say the events underscore what they see as misjudgment in hiring officers who cannot intervene to stop a serious crime. (Unlike private security, PEP officers are armed with pepper spray, carry handcuffs and a baton, and are empowered to make arrests.)

“My son could have died,” said the mother of the injured boy, who questions whether the decision to hire private security was made to save money, a charge the authority has previously denied. “What’s the value here? Who’s valuing my son’s life?”

Parents say the attack also highlights the need for better lighting on the terrace, located behind 212 North End Ave., where many local kids like to hang out.

“It’s a big, empty dark space,” said a father of one of the girls. “They need to do something about that and they need to keep security guys going through there.”

His daughter, who like her friends in the group grew up playing on the ball fields and hanging out in the area, said it is “scary” to think about what could happen in such a popular neighborhood spot.

“That always seemed like a fun place for us to go,” she said, “and we’ve never in our lives felt in danger walking through there.”

Parents of the four teens request that anyone with information about the assault write to them at BPCassault1219@gmail.com.