NYC Parks Department amends rules, as part of Criminal Justice Reform Act

City parks' new rules attempt to reduce the number of misdemeanor summonses.
City parks’ new rules attempt to reduce the number of misdemeanor summonses. Photo Credit: Vincent Barone

Thousands of summonses were doled out within a year for minor offenses in city parks, landing New Yorkers in court over transgressions like walking in the park after-hours. 

The Parks Department is hoping to reduce the number of misdemeanor summonses given out for minor crimes by reclassifying them as violations. The rule changes were proposed Tuesday and would mean lower penalties for violations like failing to comply with park signs or bicycle restrictions.

Under current rules, violators of park rules would be hit with a misdemeanor, requiring them to appear in court at a later date, and pay a fine. Fines for entering parks after they’re closed ranges from $50 to $75. 

Summons issued as violations would be heard at the City’s Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH) instead of in NYC Criminal Court under the new proposed rules, and violators would have the option of contesting in person, by mail or online. Those who appear in person for hearings will have the chance to take a community service penalty and over a fine.

In 2015, 10,393 summons were issued for being in a park after hours, and 7,069 summons were issued for disobeying park signs, according to the most recent numbers provided by the Parks Department.

“These updated rules will keep our parks safe, while also ensuring that New Yorker’s futures are not detrimentally affected by minor lapses in judgment,” Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver said in a statement.

The agency is accepting feedback from New Yorkers about the new rules at a public hearing on May 22 at the Chelsea Recreation Center (430 West 25th St.) at 10 a.m. Comments can also be emailed to rules@parks.nyc.gov. 

After public review, it will be up to Parks Department Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver to sign off on the new rules.

The alterations are part of the city’s Criminal Justice Reform Act, which the mayor signed last year to reduce the number of incarcerations for minor offenses.

A full list of the amended rules and penalties proposed is available at nycgovparks.org.