Hudson Park officers to get sensitivity, courtesy training


By Lincoln Anderson

Park Enforcement Patrol officers in the Hudson River Park will receive supplemental training to equip them to deal with specific conditions and complaints of park users that have arisen in the 5-mile-long park in the two years since it opened.

Peace officers with police powers — though unarmed — PEP’s are contracted by the Trust, a state-city authority, from the city Parks Department. Their enforcement has on occasion generated complaints of heavy-handedness from dog owners, gays and, in one case, political petition gatherers.

At the Trust’s Dec. 1 board meeting, Jim Koth, the Trust’s vice president of maintenance and operations, said that the PEP’s who are assigned to patrol Hudson River Park will now receive an additional 16 hours of training in addition to the eight-to-10-week course they take at the Park Enforcement Academy. Koth said eight PEP’s newly graduated from the academy are receiving the special training on interacting with Hudson River Park users. The areas include conflict resolution; professionalism; sensitivity; courtesy; gang awareness; terrorism awareness; handling of suspicious packages; water rescues; and operation of auto vehicles, Segway scooters and bicycles.

Former Parks Commissioner Henry Stern, a Trust board member, asked if the Trust staff planned to have the PEP’s focus specifically on improving interactions with dog walkers and dog owners.

“The issue of dog walkers and dog owners should be treated as a category — not under two or three [general] categories,” offered Trip Dorkey, the board’s chairperson, further suggesting that there should be a “seminar” for the PEP’s devoted to dog walker issues.

Koth said dog issues are “a compendium of a few areas — including sensitivity training,” but did not say whether the officers would receive specialized training regarding canine concerns.

Madelyn Wils, another board member, recalled her own experience when a PEP had spoken to her “harshly” when her dog strayed onto a park lawn. “When someone barks out an order — I had that happen to me when I had a dog,” she said. “It was not appropriate.” PEP’s “should treat park users like their clients,” Wils said.

Joseph Rose, a City Planning Commission member, added that PEP’s should be trained not to be “overzealous about minor things.”

Julie Nadel, a Trust board member who heads the authority’s new committee on reviewing PEP behavior, said she’s confident there will be improvements.

“I expect things to be better — not perfect, but really good,” Nadel said.

Speaking later, Chris Martin, the Trust’s spokesperson, said that any specific training relating to treatment of gay park users would be handled under general sensitivity training, which concerns dealing with people “from different beliefs and walks of life.” As to whether the PEP’s currently assigned to the park will receive the new training, Martin said they have already received sensitivity training.