Around 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, the hottest afternoon this year to date, NYPD officers from the 84th Precinct closed off the entrance to the basketball courts at Brooklyn Bridge Park's Pier 2. Everyone on the pier—parkgoers say there were hundreds of people, playing basketball and hanging out with friends—was allowed to stay. Anyone who approached was turned away.
A handful of NYPD cars and vans clustered around the pier entrance to enforce the decision. "There were people who were turning up, and being turned away disappointed," one parkgoer told us.
The NYPD confirmed on Thursday that there were no fights or arrests on Wednesday afternoon to justify a full pier shutdown—just crowds, although neither the NYPD nor the park would supply an official estimated headcount.
"It got very crowded," an NYPD spokeswoman clarified. According to Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation spokesperson Belinda Cape, the official capacity under the Pier 2 roof—which covers the basketball and handball courts as well as the roller rink—is 800 people. The open air sections of the pier have no FDNY capacity restriction.
Yesterday's intervention is the latest in a series of NYPD actions on Pier 2, prompted by fights or large gatherings planned on Facebook. During a community meeting last week, 84th Precinct Deputy Inspector Sergio Centa assured local residents that he was prioritizing policing efforts on the pier, following a surge of complaints from local residents who felt their safety and quality of life had been compromised.
An NYPD van enforcing capacity at Pier 2 on Tuesday (via tipster).
There has been one arrest related to fighting on Pier 2 since April, according to Inspector Centa—an alleged assault on Fulton Street, after a closure. One person has been hospitalized, and police have reported teenagers fighting with sticks and bottles. There have been no weapons recovered from the pier.
Inspector Centa declined to elaborate last week on the circumstances that merit a shutdown. "I'm going to keep that under my hat," he said.
In a letter to the park community on Tuesday, Brooklyn Bridge Park President Regina Myer wrote that, "We are taking proactive steps to ensure all parkgoers can continue to safely enjoy the Park." The 84th Precinct's park detail will have 25 officers this summer, up from just two dedicated cops on Pier 2 in 2015. The park is also planning to add more scheduled programing, like basketball clinics, and host a meeting for local teenagers to discuss "how we can best work together to ensure a safe environment."
While the justification for practicing crowd control on Pier 2 is vague, the Park's deference to the NYPD is clear. "If they decide that they're going to [close the pier] it's not a discussion," Cape said on Thursday. "We follow their lead."
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a Brooklyn Heights resident who lives near the park said on Thursday that she and many of her neighbors are pleased with increased NYPD presence on Pier 2, just in the past week. "Brooklyn Bridge Park has really engaged with all the stakeholders," she said. "Everyone is very happy about that."
Some high school students who frequent Pier 2 told us last week that while fighting has been an issue, the heightened NYPD presence is wearing on them. "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."