Three female Battery Park City residents were accosted by an agitated homeless man on Monday afternoon near South Cove. “We were sitting on the wooden deck, overlooking the water, recalls Frances Misciangna, a 15-year resident of Battery Park City, “when we saw a man, who was lurching and incoherent, stagger toward us. He may have been drunk, or high on drugs, but I have no way of knowing exactly what was wrong with him.”
“One of the friends I was with had seen him earlier in the day, outside the public restrooms in Wagner Park,” Ms. Misciangna notes. “She said he had menaced a child who was with a tourist, lunging at a toddler. And now he was moving toward us.”
“Two of us began backing up along the deck, which probably wasn’t the best thing to do, because there is no exit from the far end,” she says. “As he moved closer to us, I began yelling ‘get away,’ hoping to attract the attention of people nearby. At the same time, the third woman in our group slipped by him, and flagged down an AlliedBarton guard who was walking nearby.”
Ms. Misciangna says that the AlliedBarton “safety ambassador” ran over to the wooden deck, where she and one other friend were still cornered by the homeless man. “At that point, he sat down on one of the benches and passed out,” she remembers. The women’s anxiety about physical safety soon yielded to concern for the homeless man’s health, as he appeared unresponsive. “We asked the AlliedBarton guard to call an ambulance,” Ms. Misciangna says, “but he said he wasn’t allowed to do anything except call his supervisor. He was very nice, but he didn’t take control of the situation.”
The supervisor appeared quickly on the scene, and decided that a call to 911 was warranted, Ms. Misciangna says, “but wasn’t sure where he was. He didn’t know how to describe the location, and kept saying he was on Rector Place, which is several blocks away.” At this point, the homeless man briefly awakened, then moved from the bench to the wooden deck, where he lost consciousness again.
The procedure used by 911 operators is to dispatch New York City emergency personnel to the street intersection closest to the incident that are responding to — in this case, Battery Place and Third Place. “The supervisor didn’t seem to have heard of either of those streets, or know where they were,” Ms. Misciangna observes. “He kept telling the 911 operator that he was by the water, at a dock. But the Esplanade is almost a mile long in Battery Park City, and the word ‘dock’ could describe North Cove, or South Cove, or Pier A.”
After this confusion was resolved, fire fighters and emergency medical services (EMS) technicians eventually reached to the scene, and the unconscious homeless man was taken to a hospital for observation. “I told the supervisor, you better give your people maps,” Ms. Misciangna says. “You have to know the name of a location to send for help. How do you patrol an area when you don’t even know where you are?”
A Battery Park City Authority (BPCA) spokesman responded, “as part of the regular patrol routes of the BPC Ambassadors, an Ambassador was walking in South Cove and observed an apparently emotionally disturbed man bothering people in the area. The Ambassador immediately notified his supervisor and began to approach the individual. At the same time, a second Ambassador had also notified the BPC Ambassador Command Center of the issue with the emotionally disturbed man and requested that 911 be called and additional resources be sent. The Command Center immediately called 911 and dispatched additional resources. Before the police arrived, the man collapsed and another call to 911 was placed — this time for EMS. EMS took the man to the hospital before the police arrived. BPC Ambassadors were still at the site when NYPD arrived. No additional actions by NYPD were required.”
Ms. Misciangna’s view is that, “this was total incompetence. I don’t feel that we’re being properly protected. What if this had been a man having a heart attack? What if a violent crime was taking place? There would have been a delay to get the supervisor, and even after 911 was called, he wouldn’t have been able to direct help to the right location. If time had been of the essence, somebody could have died.”
“I loved the Parks Enforcement Patrol,” she adds, in a reference to the PEP officers who safeguarded the community for decades, until the BPCA made a controversial decision to end the relationship in January, replacing the uniformed law enforcement officers with private security guards from AlliedBarton.
Ms. Misciangna recalls that, “the PEPs would respond to issues with homeless people by getting them help. I used to call PEP when tour buses were illegally parked and idling on our streets, and they would come right away to make them move. But security guards have no legal authority. Not having people with the power to make arrests is going to make a real difference in the quality of life for this community. This incident is just one of many more to come.”
She adds that, “I once saw an incident where two teenagers were high on drugs and one was trying to throw herself into the river. A PEP was trying to hold her back, when the boyfriend started punching the PEP officer. You should have seen how that whole team sprang into action. They prevented the girl from hurting herself, and restrained the boy without hurting him. They were very well trained.” Ms. Misciangna adds the concern that, “security guards aren’t like that. They are passive observers. And they don’t know the neighborhood. Those are huge differences.”
Recalling the December 16 Open Community Meeting hosted by the BPCA, at which the status of PEP officers was the primary focus of discussion, Ms. Misciangna says, “I feel like we were all misled at that meeting. They already had a signed contract with AlliedBarton, but were pretending that they still might keeps PEPs. This is just another example of the BPCA making decisions that have severe impacts on us.”
“We have nothing to say about what goes on in the neighborhood where we live,” she continues. “We pay so much money to live here, and not to have any say is ridiculous. Governor Cuomo appoints people [to the BPCA board] who don’t even live here, and they sign off on things without reading them. We have to find a way to organize and make our voices heard.” In a reference to the annual price of the BPCA’s contract with AlliedBarton, Ms. Misciangna says, “they should give the $2.1 million back to the residents and we’d be better off. We can call 911 ourselves, and at least we know where we are.”