Police dispersed crowds from Brooklyn Bridge Park late Tuesday afternoon due to a "disorderly group," according to the NYPD. The partial evacuation prompted park-goers to stream along residential Brooklyn Heights streets to the chagrin of neighbors.
"I was walking out of the neighborhood at about 2:00 p.m. and I saw masses of kids coming down Joralemon Street [toward the park], and I emailed the NYPD and community members and I said there may be trouble at Pier 2 brewing," said Linda de Rosa, Vice President of the Willowtown Association, a neighborhood civic group.
"We can't walk on the streets for fear of this happening," she added. "There's a lot of very unsavory activity."
The park closure recalls similar NYPD actions last April and May, prompted by large gatherings planned on Facebook and reports of fighting. During a community meeting last spring, 84th Precinct Deputy Inspector Sergio Centa assured local residents that he was prioritizing policing efforts on the pier, following a surge of complaints from neighbors who felt their safety and quality of life had been compromised.
Pier 2, a two-acre flattop with basketball and handball courts and a rollerskating rink, is now in its fourth season. It was closed five times in under a month last spring.
Police responded to a "disorderly group" on Pier 2 at 4:10 p.m. on Tuesday, and dispersed it, according to a spokesman for the NYPD. There were no arrests, and no summonses were issued. The police could not confirm alleged fights on the pier, or along Joralemon Street, as reported by the Brooklyn Daily Eagle (an unnamed person told the outlet that he had witnessed "about ten" fights on the pier).
One criminal complaint, filed from the park at 3:30 p.m., alleges that a 15-year-old girl was punched and kicked by a "group of unknown individuals." Her phone and MetroCard were stolen, she told police.
The Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation issued a statement saying, "BBP staff worked closely with the NYPD's 84th precinct Tuesday to manage crowding issues and ensure both a safe clearing of overcrowded park sections and continued operations throughout the rest of the park."
— Brooklyn Daily Eagle (@BklynEagle) April 12, 2017
Park neighbors argued last spring that the Pier 2 basketball courts were to blame for unruly crowds, attracting teenagers from local high schools. Residents of Joralemon Street—a treelined stretch that connects park visitors directly to the waterfront—demanded that the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation and NYPD take extra measure to discourage fighting in the park and surrounding neighborhood, including increased NYPD presence and street closures.
Gothamist spoke to park-goers on Pier 2 last spring, who expressed concern about the animosity coming from the neighborhood, as well as the increased police presence.
"It's bad that people fight, but we all get to hang out and meet new people," said Kahliyah Brown, 17, a student at Brooklyn High School of the Arts. "The amount of cops that come here, they pressure us and make us feel a little unsafe rather than protected."
The 84th Precinct increased its park detail to 25 officers last summer, up from just two dedicated cops on Pier 2 in 2015. The park also added more scheduled programing, like basketball clinics, and promised to host a meeting for local teenagers to discuss "how we can best work together to ensure a safe environment."
This week is spring break, and the park is hosting a full week of afternoon basketball clinics on the pier to accommodate students. Yesterday's dispersal coincided with a planned 3 v. 3 tournament for boys.
"It didn't work did it?" de Rosa, of the civic association, said. "So there you go."
"We'll take the repercussions of being called NIMBYs, because it's ridiculous," she added. "Of course it's a beautiful day. Of course people want to use the park. But these giant problems are on Pier 2. That's all I know. It's always Pier 2."