Thefts at B.P.C. Day Nursery have residents worried

BY TERESE LOEB KREUZER | For 25 years, the Battery Park City Day Nursery has been at the corner of Rector Place and South End Avenue. This year it became a crime scene — not once, but three times between May and September.

Denise Cordivano, who heads the school, remembers that when she and her partner, Karen Klomp, bought it from founder Joy McCormick 15 years ago, “the front door was locked but the classroom doors that lead back to apartments [at 1 Rector Park, which is connected to the nursery] were never locked. Karen and I started locking them when we bought the school but Joy never used to lock the doors. I remember that a parent had left a stroller one night in front of the school and we thought, ‘oh, they forgot it. They’ll come back and pick it up.’ The next morning it was still there in the same place. That would never happen now.”

In May, a side door to the school was left slightly ajar because a class had gone across to the park for a few minutes. A man came in through the door and started rummaging through a teacher’s purse.  

“Another teacher happened to walk in and saw him,” said Cordivano, “and he ran out the door, but he took the teacher’s wallet.”

Cordivano said the man ran across the Rector Place bridge and was never caught. Later the teacher’s credit cards were used in Brooklyn.

The most recent thefts occurred over Labor Day weekend. Early on Sunday evening, Cordivano stopped by the school to bring in some supplies.

“All the doors were locked,” Cordivano recalled. “Everything looked fine at first.” But then she noticed some things that “didn’t look right. In one classroom, baby wipes and diapers were strewn on the carpet and I thought that was odd, but I thought maybe [some of the teachers] were sorting out a cabinet and didn’t quite get it finished and they’re going to come back.”

Cordivano had administrative work to do in the office. “It was about 10:30 at night when I happened to notice that one of our laptop computers, instead of being put in the storage area where we keep them during the breaks was down here in my office,” she said. “So I carried it to where the rest of them should have been and I noticed that there were about four of them that were gone including the Director of Education’s laptop.”

Cordivano thought that maybe the director had taken the computers home with her for some reason. It was too late to call and ask, so she continued working until around one o’clock in the morning. “I left my briefcase here in the office,” she said, “and locked everything up and left. My briefcase had a digital camera in it that I had just bought to replace one that had broken in a classroom. I came back on Monday — Labor Day — at about noon. It was really bothering me about the computers.”

Cordivano went back upstairs to look in the place where the computers were kept. Now she found that all them were gone and when she came back downstairs, she discovered that her briefcase was open and the digital camera was also missing. She called the police.

“They determined that someone had climbed over our backyard wall,” Cordivano recounted. “There have been construction workers in there recently, remodeling our backyard and they figured that one of the sliding doors wasn’t completely locked and they had jarred it enough to open it. We have some bolts on the doors now so that you’d have to break the glass to break them open.”

Cordivano noted that a lot of people are currently moving into 1 Rector Park and there are moving vans behind the building all the time but neither she nor the police know who was responsible for the thefts.

“It was somebody definitely who had been in the building before because of where the laptops were and where they had to go to get the laptops,” Cordivano said. “They say locks only keep the honest people out. How much do we do without going completely crazy? Where do I draw the line between spending money on security and spending money on teachers and things for the kids?”

The incidents inside the school are not unprecedented. Cordivano said that the mother of one of the children had a cellphone stolen from her outside the school around a year ago when a man knocked it out of her hand and ran off with it. She also said that a homeless man was hanging around a Battery Park City playground and followed a woman and her three-year-old son — a Battery Park City Day Nursery student — to their apartment, where the doorman turned him away. The mother reported the incident to the police but no one was caught.

Cordivano believes that the tourists now flooding the neighborhood from the nearby World Trade Center site are likely to bring more trouble in their wake. “Once you have tourists, then you have people looking to prey on the tourists,” she said. “There has to be more of a police presence and people lobbying for more of a police presence and just keeping their eyes open. I know that Battery Park City is still safer than some other parts of the city and so parents who are moving here from other areas may think this is so idyllic, which it is, but it isn’t quite the non-crime scene that we’ve seen in the past.”

Despite the presence of hundreds of policemen at the World Trade Center site, their focus is on those 16 acres and not on Battery Park City. The First Precinct is responsible for law enforcement in Battery Park City.

Anthony Notaro, who heads the First Precinct Community Council, which is the liaison between the community and the N.Y.P.D., suggested that people who are concerned about crime in Battery Park City attend the First Precinct Community Council’s meetings on the last Thursday of each month at 6:30 p.m. They are held at the precinct headquarters at 16 Ericsson Place. The next one is on Sept. 29.