Advocates call for more park security after Riverside stabbing
A stabbing spree in Riverside Park yesterday that injured five people has advocates concerned about safety in parks amid a spate of crime.
Crime has been on the rise in city parks this year, according to parks advocates and City Councilman Peter Vallone, chair of the public safety committee.
In Tuesday’s 7:54 a.m. attack, an apparent homeless man named Julius Graham, a 43-year-old originally from Texas, used a broken scissor blade to slash or stab five people: a 35-year-old man and his 2-year-old son, a 32-year-old woman jogging, a 36-year-old woman jogging and a 63-year-old man.
Witnesses told police the man wielded a bloody scissor blade as he slashed and stabbed people in a four-block stretch of the park between West 64th and West 60th streets, authorities said.
A friend of the man pushing the stroller identified him as James Fayette, the former principle dancer with the New York City Ballet.
The child sustained a cut on the arm after Graham attacked them near 60th Street, Kelly said. A 32-year-old woman jogging was also stabbed, sustaining a wound to the neck, Police Commissioner Kelly said.
Kelly said the attacks began just before 8 a.m. when Graham stabbed a 36-year-old woman in the back as she jogged. The attacker moved two blocks south, stabbing a 63-year-old man in the stomach before making his way south for two more blocks where he continued his assaults, Kelly said.
The stabbing victims were all listed in stable condition, the NYPD said last night. Kelly said the motive for the attacks wasn't known.
From April and June, there were 128 crimes in 31 of the city’s largest parks, according to quarterly NYPD statistics in August and provided to amNewYork by New York City Park Advocates.
That is a fourfold increase from the first four months of this year, which saw 34 incidents, and a 44% spike from the same period last year, in which there were 89 crimes committed.
“Crime overall in parks is significantly up,” said Geoff Croft, the president of NYC Park Advocates. “This is at least the fourth attack on that \[Riverside Park\] greenway over the last five weeks.”
Croft cited two recent reports of bicyclists being mugged while riding in Riverside Park and an attempted sexual assault last week on a 33-year-old woman walking with her 8-month-old by a Fort Tryon bike path near the Henry Hudson Parkway.
“We want more park enforcement,” Croft said. “Under Bloomberg and former Parks Commissioner \[Adrian\] Benepe, they allowed the number of officers to go down to 80.”
Croft noted that in the 1990s, there were 450 officers in the Park Enforcement Patrol. The Department of Parks and Recreation recently hired an additional 81 PEP officers after getting a funding boost in the latest city budget. They are currently undergoing training, parks spokesman Philip Abramson said.
“We frequently communicate with the NYPD about incidents in parks and crime prevention strategies,” Abramson said.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly at a news conference said the amount of crime in city parks is small.
“Our parks are very, very safe,” said Kelly. Crime “concerns everybody, we understand that, but the amounts of incidents in parks are minuscule.”
Vallone called the increase in crime on park property “alarming.”
“Yes, the police department is right we are much safer than we were 20 years ago,” Vallone said. “But this is the largest increase that we have seen” since the Queens lawmaker and the Council passed a law requiring the NYPD to compile crime statistics for city parks.