Battery Park City AND PARKS DEPARTMENT (LOST THIS CASE)
The offenses charged by one of the two plain-clothes PEP (Park Enforcement Patrol) officers who arrested him were disorderly conduct and “failure to comply with the directions of a Park Enforcement Patrol officer.” Albright acknowledges that he had walked his Dalmatian dog across a no-dog zone, the planted median in Rector Pl., taking a shortcut back to his home in Liberty Terrace.
“After they handcuffed me they talked about taking Nova to the pound, but fortunately a neighbor was there and took her home,” Albright recalled.
The incident was only one of several in which Battery Park City dog owners say they have been harassed and summonsed recently in a “Zero Tolerance” crackdown on even minor dog law violations, according to Jeff Galloway, of the Battery Park City Dog Association, a dog owners advocacy group.
“It’s difficult to imagine a home owner and father of three children being taken to the police station in handcuffs for a dog rule violation,” said Galloway, also a member of Community Board 1. “We’ve had great relations with PEP officers in Battery Park City. If there was concern about people not picking up after their dogs, we’ve offered to do what we can to help the situation.”
Albright, who has retained a lawyer, would not talk about the specifics of the arrest but said the PEP officers did not identify themselves until after he was handcuffed. He said, however, that he would contest the summons and the $1,000 fine connected with it. Deputy Inspector Peter Winski, commanding officer of the First Precinct, said Albright was brought to the precinct on Wednesday night to receive the summons and was released after 20 minutes.
The Battery Park City Authority hires the unarmed PEP officers to patrol Battery Park City under an agreement with the city Department of Parks and Recreation. Tessa Huxley, director of the Battery Park City Parks Conservancy, which maintains B.P.C.A. parks, referred all inquiries to the authority.
Timothy Carey, president of the authority, did not return calls seeking comment.
Galloway said he had phoned Leticia Remauro, Battery Park City Authority vice president for community and press relations, the day after Albright was arrested. “She was very upset and said she would stop it right away,” Galloway said. Nevertheless, another dog owner was reported cited for a minor offense on Friday, he added.
Remauro also did not return calls for comment.
Some PEP officers in recent weeks carried tape measures and issued summonses for leashes longer than the maximum six feet specified in regulations, Galloway added.
A sympathetic PEP officer told residents last week that the Zero Tolerance campaign was scheduled to last until March 4 and the officer who issued the most summonses was to have been rewarded with an extra week’s vacation, according to Galloway.
Anthony Notaro, a Community Board 1 member and a south B.P.C. resident, said the B.P.C.A. Zero Tolerance policy was shocking. “Nobody warned anyone about it,” he said, and added that the community board’s Battery Park City committee will review the situation on Tuesday.
Stacey Sosa, a resident of the north end of Battery Park City and a Tribeca restaurant owner, said PEP officers (whom she referred to as “the guys in the green uniforms”) had harassed her a month ago.
“On two separate occasions I was out walking my dog with my six-year-old daughter when they stopped me,” Sosa said. “The first time we were walking on the little street between Warren and Murray St. One of them shouted at me to please remove myself, my child and my dog from the street. I asked him why and he said ‘Just do it.’ I said I was doing nothing wrong and he threatened me. The other day my daughter and I were again walking our dog and a security vehicle pulled up and stopped us from crossing the street. They rolled down the window and said ‘Ma’am, are you aware of the rules with walking your dog in Battery Park City?” and I said ‘Did I do something wrong?’ They said ‘Take a look at this brochure because we’re giving out a lot of tickets.’ I told them the rules were the same ones that have always been in effect. They said, ‘Just be careful. We’re giving out a lot of tickets.’”
Galloway said a Zero Tolerance policy for dog offenses was not the way to enforce dog regulations. “It makes residents the enemy of law enforcement agents,” he said. “It’s gotten so bad my wife is afraid to go out and walk the dog.”