City Councilman Peter Koo and his colleagues are urging Mayor Bill de Blasio to reallocate NYPD funding to preserve and maintain the city’s Parks Enforcement Patrol (PEP) team, tasked with maintaining safety and rule enforcement in parks.
Koo — along with Council Members Barry Grodenchik, Donovan Richards, Adrienne Adams, Paul Vallone and Robert Holden — sent a letter to the mayor on June 24 stating that reinvesting NYPD funding to support PEP officers operating under the jurisdiction of the NYC Parks Department would ensure parks and green spaces remain safe and welcoming for everyone.
“New Yorkers are relying on parks. As one of the primary public resources that have remained open during the Covid-19 crisis, parks serve as our backyards, picnic areas, fitness spaces, hiking trails, wellness centers and public spaces across the boroughs; having the presence of PEP officers will help to ensure that visitors feel safe,” the letter said.
According to Koo, who also serves as chairman of the Committee on Parks and Recreation, it is more important than ever to invest in parks across the city during this time of unprecedented hardship.
“Unfortunately, police are too often made to fill gaps in enforcement because the Parks Department is perpetually short staffed and underfunded,” Koo said.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and a safe reopening, the letter also calls for the additional funding to support PEP officers taking on a larger role in managing increased activity in parks.
The presence of PEP officers in parks rather than NYPD officers reinforces the city’s commitment to reduce funding for the NYPD and policing across the boroughs and supports a de-escalation strategy aimed at positively reducing interactions between residents and the NYPD, according to the lawmakers.
Last year, the City Council fought last year to fund an additional 80 PEP officers as a way to reduce interactions between residents and the NYPD, the lawmakers said.
Recognizing the constraints in this year’s budget, the lawmakers said the expansion of the role of PEP will preserve the 80 jobs that were created last year on a one-shot basis.
“The city made a significant investment to recruit and train these PEP professionals in FY ’20; retaining them in FY ‘21 will enable PEP to play a vital role in communities going forward,” the letter said.
Grodenchik said shifting the funding from the NYPD to PEP makes sense.
“The additional parks patrol officers help to keep our parks safe and open to all, a critical function as New Yorkers seek open spaces that provide a respite during this ongoing pandemic,” Grodenchik said.