Neighbor Ticketed For Walking Home Through Prospect Park’s Parade Grounds At Night

Parade Ground Sign

Neighbor Geoffrey wrote to us and told us that, while walking home through the Parade Grounds around 11:15pm Tuesday night, he was incredibly surprised when he was stopped by a uniformed officer from the 70th Precinct, who asked for his ID and proceeded to write him a ticket for remaining in the park after dark.

Around that time, Geoffrey noted he was one of five people being written up for walking or biking down the path that’s adjacent to the Tennis Center and the baseball fields – something he said was a great surprise to him, as he has used the walkway (which is regularly traversed by people after sundown) at night for years without issue.

The neighbor said he wanted to get the word out about the experience because, while he had identification on him, “a late-night jogger or biker who neglected to have ID with them might have an altogether more unpleasant experience.”

Geoffrey also noted that of the individuals who were being ticketed, “none of us were hanging out.”

“These were people quite literally walking home or biking through what, by all appearances is, an open path that leads to Stratford Road and Caton Avenue,” he wrote.

From the neighbor’s email to us:

I was contestant number 3 on, “Surprise! Betcha didn’t know walking through this inviting, well travelled street after dark gets you a ticket.” None of us were too happy with it because, despite the officers saying there’s a sign, not one of us can recall seeing it, and I’ve lived here for over 5 years. On my way out looking for such a sign, pink ticket in hand, I asked a lady sitting on a bench at Caton and Stratford if she had ever heard of such a thing, and she said in her 40 years of living here, this was the first. Then a guy walking his dog asked me whether I also got one of those tickets because he had gotten one earlier. This was at around 11:30 PM and I had my run-in with the officers at 11:15. So I’m not sure when the ticket fun begins.

This was a multi-ethnic crowd of “offenders.” Myself, being black, a white guy, another black guy and 2 Latino gentlemen I was unable to waive off before the officers pulled them to the side, and the guy walking his dog who had gotten his ticket earlier.

The neighbor went on to stress that “it’s very surprising to get a ticket for what is essentially walking through an obvious footpath with no gate, and no apparent signage indicating that no one is permitted past a certain time.”

“Even as me and my fellow unlucky pedestrians were standing to the side while the officers ran warrant checks, several other people biked by us on the same path, also blissfully unaware that they were “guilty” of being in the park after dark, but the officer said he couldn’t chase after them while he was dealing with us,” Geoffrey wrote to us.

Additionally, the neighbor pointed out how many people use this path – which we too have seen late at night.

“This is something that can happen to anyone who walks or bikes regularly through that path in the evenings,” he wrote. “If you are walking down Prospect Park Southwest, heading east of Coney Island Ave., it’s the path of least resistance and many people naturally walk or bike down it.”

We’ve reached out to the 70th Precinct about the tickets, as well as when people can no longer walk through the Parade Grounds. On the Prospect Park website, it notes that the Parade Ground fields close at dusk.

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Anna Gustafson

Editor of Ditmas Park Corner

Comments

  1. i was issued a warning a month ago when i was walking my dog through there around 9-10 after the neutral milk show at the park. he said that other cops aren’t as forgiving so i just need to keep in mind to not be there when it’s dark.

  2. i was issued a warning a month ago when i was walking my dog through there around 9-10 after the neutral milk show at the park. he said that other cops aren’t as forgiving so i just need to keep in mind to not be there when it’s dark.

  3. This is total bullshit, and somethingthat needs to be addressed at the community meeting. If the path people are talking about is the on that leads to the parking lot, this is absurd. For one, there’s a damn police station in the “park,” making it impossible to get there without risk of fine, not to mention that it’s obviously not part of the park, but a path, as its totally fenced off from the paragde ground fields.

  4. I was stopped for this two years ago, around 10pm, but didn’t have id on me and was let go without a ticket. Then a few weeks ago I was biking home, same thing, stopped, asked to see id ( which I had this time) and let go again. I’m 17, white, and female- so I have that going for me. But I wondered if people were actually getting tickets, it is ridiculous, what about on nights where there are baseball games until 11pm? Since then I’ve been biking home from work and going around the parade grounds, which is a hassle and way sketchier- on both sides. It reminds me of when they fence off the entrance to the park on that side- what is that about?

  5. Is this the path just west of the baseball fields, next to the police station or east of them? Are both off limits? I have run on the path every night for the last two years after dark..

  6. Insane. I bike this path all the time. I’m not a super experienced Street biker, and it’s infinitely more safe than trying to bike down Coney Island Ave at any time, let alone at night.

  7. It’s the path just west of the baseball fields, next to the police station. According to the officer issuing the summonses, the entire Parade Grounds is closed after dark. He said there’s a sign and that it has always been this way. In five years I’d never seen this sign, so the next day, which was very bright sunny day, I went looking for it. It took me 10 minutes, actively searching for this sign, to find it. It is about one hundred feet west of the path, facing away from the path. It cannot be seen by anyone jogging or riding south along this open path connecting Parkside Ave. to Caton Ave. There is no sign entering the path and this is why no one who hasn’t been warned or received a summons knows about it.

  8. It sounds like a great topic to bring up at a precinct meeting. I think the police and community are on the same page with the idea of what this rule is supposed to represent, but that the logical implementation of it is not working for us. The road through the Parade Grounds is marked and feels as if it is a road separate from the rest of the Parade Ground and the areas of the parade ground that have issues that this is supposed to be addressing are on the opposite side. I agree the natural flow of human traffic goes down that road.

  9. I am wondering that as well- i often cut through that on the way home.

    Coney is gross and I do not like walking that way, the other side of the park where the playground is — is a bit sketchy so i’m not into walking there late at night.

    Great.

  10. I appreciate Geoffrey’s neighborliness in telling us that the police are ticketing for this now. I’m not too surprised, because I have seen signs on various public parks noting that they close at dusk. I would assume this includes any paths that run through them. So that, coupled with the fact that there have been drug and violence problems in the Parade grounds the past few years makes this move on the part of the police less than shocking. But good to be aware of.

  11. For anyone biking or walking from Parkside Ave. and Park Circle, heading to any street east of Coney Island Ave., it’s the most natural way to travel. I wanted to alert as many people as possible because this situation can easily turn from a summons to an arrest if you aren’t carrying ID and many people don’t have ID when they are jogging. Imagine how bad this could be if this was a Friday evening and you were detained with no identification? You could very easily spend the weekend in jail. . . for walking down a path almost no one knows is “closed” after sunset.

  12. Thanks to Geoffrey and Anna for the scoop. I’m hosting a German family here on a visit, and their response to this was that it reminded them of East Germany.

  13. I picked up a ticket for biking through one night this winter. I went to court and they dismissed it. There is a sign, but its up high on the baseball fence. It would be nice if they had a sign at eye level at the entrance, or better yet, a fence that closes when the park does. +1 for it being much safer than having to bike on Coney Island or Ocean.

  14. I was issued a ticket a couple month ago for walking my dog about 6 feet inside the Parade Place entrance of the Parade Grounds after dark. The policemen were clearly having fun with me, assuring me that I’d “probably only get six months probation” before issuing me with a summons–not even a payable ticket. I spent a morning a few weeks ago in downtown Manhattan waiting for my “case” to be heard. When I finally got in front of a judge, my “public defender” informed me that the judge had offered me a $25 fine “with no criminal record,” or else I could be scheduled for a trial at a later date. Having already wasted enough time on this travesty, I paid the fine, but my respect for law and order in NYC has taken a very big hit.

  15. I got a ticket in June and have to go to court on Tuesday! I really hope it gets thrown out or it’s a small fine with no record, as a few people have had in this thread. It’s just such a pain, I was only walking home and didn’t see a sign. Like others have said, it just looks like a big footpath.

  16. ARE. YOU. KIDDING. ME. If this is going to be anything but a ludicrous “speed trap” for innocent pedestrians, they’ve gotta put up a fence with a gate and close it at (loud laughter) “closing time.” I have NEVER heard of anyone being ticketed for walking through there; this is insane. As a friend says: “quota time.”

  17. IF THE PARADE GROUNDS ARE ‘CLOSED’ AFTER DARK, WHY ARE THE BASEBALL FIELDS ALWAYS LIT UP FOR NIGHT PLAY? ARE THEY GOING TO GIVE THEM ALL TICKETS???

  18. Every park in NYC has had signage that they close at dusk for decades. It’s not a new law and getting ticketed is not a new phenomena. If you’ve never gotten a ticket, consider yourself lucky, because all NYC parks close at dusk and if you’re found in them, you are subject to a ticket. If you’re just asked to leave, again, consider yourself lucky, because parks are closed at dusk. Period.

  19. Furthermore, to suggest that something needs to be done to allow “you guys” in the park after dusk, but not the drug dealing problems, could only be accomplished by profiling.

    It’s all or none.

  20. Well, this is not entirely true. Prospect Park closes at 1 am. (Source: Some parts of the park close at sunset, but not all.

  21. If there’s a night game going on, they most likely have a permit. If they don’t, they all *can* get tickets.

  22. Actually, Prospect Park, of which the Parade Grounds is apart closes from 1AM to 6AM. The sign indicating that the Parade Grounds closes at dusk is not at the Park Circle/Parkside entrance. It’s over 100 feet away facing Coney Island Ave and took me 10 minutes to find during broad daylight. I understand it’s a very NYC thing to say, “obscure fact abc is known to me, therefore it’s somehow obvious,” but it seems numerous people on this thread did not know. Numerous New Yorkers I’ve told this to also did not know about the dusk rule. It is obscure. No one here is claiming that they are special and should receive immunity. What they’d like is clearer notice, not special treatment. I find it implausible that anyone is dealing drugs on the path between the Tennis Center and the police substation.

  23. I was ticketed a there last year by two young officers. They told me “it was for my own safety” even though they left me in the dark, with my wallet in hand, and the contents of my backpack spread out across the ground after issuing me the ticket. I was in a more vulnerable situation then than before they had stopped me. Also behind me while I was being ticketed there was a father and son kicking a soccer ball. No tickets for them. I’ve been doing research on the 70th Precinct. It looks like they should spend more time learning rules of conduct for their own internal behavior before they go out and make trouble for otherwise law abiding citizens.

    I was also told I could go an pay it whenever and it’d only be $25. That was also false. It included a mandatory court date. Lucky for me the judge threw it out as he could see it was nothing worth spending his, or the courts time on.

    What can we do to change the laws of this park? It seems like the 70th Precincts poaching ground. It’s absurd

  24. I was ticketed a there last year by two young officers. They told me “it was for my own safety” even though they left me in the dark, with my wallet in hand, and the contents of my backpack spread out across the ground after issuing me the ticket. I was in a more vulnerable situation then than before they had stopped me. Also behind me while I was being ticketed there was a father and son kicking a soccer ball. No tickets for them. I’ve been doing research on the 70th Precinct. It looks like they should spend more time learning rules of conduct for their own internal behavior before they go out and make trouble for otherwise law abiding citizens.

    I was also told I could go an pay it whenever and it’d only be $25. That was also false. It included a mandatory court date. Lucky for me the judge threw it out as he could see it was nothing worth spending his, or the courts time on.

    What can we do to change the laws of this park? It seems like the 70th Precincts poaching ground. It’s absurd.

  25. sssnole above mentioned this is something we can bring up at a precinct meeting. Aren’t city council elections coming up in November? I’d like to bring this up with whomever represents Ditmas Park or the candidates seeking votes.

    I felt that the officers I encountered were professional and good natured. I told them these types of summonses are bad for community relations and I was frank with my feelings about the ticket, the validity of which I referenced in colorful language. Less courteous officers might have arrested me for daring to think I have a right to freely express my opinions. I empathize with young patrol officers because they are punished if they don’t get their “20 and 1” summonses and arrest per month. Interactions with law enforcement are made unnecessarily dicey. You don’t have to be doing anything the ordinary person would think of as wrong to end up in a very bad place.

    http://www.esquire.com/blogs/news/running-after-dark

    http://blogs.villagevoice.com/runninscared/2011/11/samanth_zucker_arrest_riverside_park.php

    http://gothamist.com/2011/06/06/ticketed_for_eating_a_doughnut_in_a.php
    http://gothamist.com/2011/06/06/ticketed_for_eating_a_doughnut_in_a.php

  26. So who is immune from ticketing in these situations? Players only? Their guests? Who defines guest? This whole thing is ridiculous. Having people walk through actually makes the space safer. How about keeping an eye out, patrolling and deterring crime by providing a visible police presence?

  27. If the FIELD closes at dusk that doesn’t imply that the path does. Even parks that close up at a certain time, usually later, have gates that the police close up after making sure no one is inside still. Even then, I’ve had cops just tell me it’s closing and get out, never ticketed for it if it was open when I entered….Also, what time does Prospect Park close?

  28. Also, I think the point is that it is a bad law that ought to be changed. Saying, “It’s the law, live with it,” is ridiculous.

  29. Just went looking for a sign about it being closed after dark–NOTHING posted at either entrance to either path (by the stationhouse or by the snack bar), just a sign INSIDE the Parade Grounds on the fence near Field 3 that it is closed except when field 3 is in use at night “by permit.”

  30. This sounds like an issue for the community board. The Parade Grounds are within the CB 14 area. The community board meets with reps from both the NYPD and Parks Department, both of which have some responsibility for this issue.

  31. When crime is down, the need for ticketing quotas go up. There should be a sign that reads “Pedestrians and cyclists are subjected to citation or arrest from police beyond this path after ___ PM”. A big vibrant sign that is as big as the menorah on the circle celebrating Hanukkah.

    The reason why this was unheard of is because you actually had some serious crimes going on in and around the park which captured the action of police. Now that crime rate continues to drop, officers are pressured to make ticketing quotas. Yes, it has come to this. Unfortunately, our district rep isn’t as responsive as we would like for him to be so we might as well get other local pols and CB14 involved.

  32. Everyone who got a ticket or walks through the parade ground in the evenings should come to the 70th Precinct’s next public meeting on Wednesday 9/24 at 7:30PM (175 Lawrence Ave). Not only is this nonsense, but the cops are wrong. The Parade Grounds are part of Prospect park. The park closes at 1AM. Parade ground ball fields close at dusk unless the lights are on but there is a clear difference between a park path and a ball field. Precincts sometimes photocopy cheat sheets of laws and rules. I wonder if there is one of those going around with bad information on it.

    If you don’t have time to come to the meeting, at least email the 70th to express your frustration. 70pctcommunityaffairs@nypd.org

    By the way, this happened before in 2011.
    http://web.archive.org/web/20120409013149/http://ditmasparkblog.com/news/parks-close-at-dusk

  33. In response to not having ID on you, only a fool would do so in 2014, even if just jogging. The real thing we should learn is never leave the house without ID, ever. The Supreme Court has ruled that not having a government issued ID is grounds for detention/jail until you can prove who you are.

  34. This is correct. Some of us need access to the park late at night so that we can have sex and/or score drugs.

  35. I have a friend who works for the DOT doing bike path stuff. He confirmed that this is an official bike path and even pointed out that on the park circle side there is an official DOT sign directing bike traffic down this road. This is also a mess because it forces bikes to ride on the sidewalk on the Caton ave side. He says the park does not have teh budget to make this more clear or even to put up a “walk bikes across sidewalk” sign. Or even alerting pedestrians that this is a bike path. We should all try to contact the prospect park alliance or Eugene and let them know this is not an acceptable situation. I don’t know if you guys can get your tickets retroactively rendered null, but you shouldn’t have gotten tickets for riding your bikes here.

  36. I don’t like this at all, but just to play devil’s advocate for a second — aren’t there quite a few violent crimes taking place at the Parade Grounds? Maybe that is a factor? Maybe the NYPD don’t want people in there at night to try to make it safer?

  37. I got a ticket Friday night around 930-10pm. Over a dozen other people biked or walked by as the cops processed me (I was walking my bike), two cyclists, and two teenagers who I think were let go without summonses. One of the cops kept insisting that there were signs “all over,” pointing vaguely towards Caton Avenue. I asked them repeatedly to show me the signs but they refused. I told them it was confusing because across the street Prospect Park closes at 1am. The same cop that was talking out of his ass about signs being everywhere told me that ALL parks in NYC closed at dusk – Central Park, Prospect Park, all parks. I couldn’t believe it. His partner clearly knew he was misinformed but didn’t speak up.

  38. I was stopped here a year and a half ago by the 70th precinct. I’ve pretty much figured out this is an easy way to fill some sort of quota and have decided to avoid the path all together now. Sadly, i ended up at central booking because i had another ticket i forgot to pay which led to a warrant. Complete waste of time.

  39. If the alleged regulation pertaining to the path from Park Circle to Caton Ave. says “dusk”, that means dozens of commuter cyclists (and pedestrians) may face ticketing as the days get shorter. And it puts cyclists in particular danger if they decide to detour via Coney Island Avenue at night. Truly an absurd and unacceptable policy.

  40. A few years ago I was mugged at the very spot where people are now complaining about being ticketed. It was a Sunday night, and there were a lot of people out, but the perps got me in a more isolated spot. I would have preferred a summons to getting punched and my wallet taken. I do not consider the Parade Ground a safe place after dark, and I don’t think cops do either.

  41. I think they could put a gate in that was closed at dusk. I would not have used if it was clearly marked that I could not use it. This would have saved me two trips to court, since they forgot to actually write the date on my ticket. My guess is that a gate would stop way more people from cutting through versus randomly ticketing.

  42. I would contact the Community Board (14). They are very helpful. Better signage is needed and Parks has a whole unit that just makes signs.

  43. This law does not need to be changed to permit “some” people but not “all” people to use the park after dusk. It’s a logistical nightmare to try to figure out how that would work considering profiling is no longer permitted by our NYPD. For EVERYONE’s safety, including those of the police officers who would have to ‘profile’ every person they see …at night, in darkness…going through the park to figure out ‘who belongs’ and who doesn’t. This law ain’t changing anytime soon because it’s not a bad law, it’s a good one.

  44. Locked gates are not practical in case there is an emergency in the park at night. People need to read the signs and follow the rules.

  45. The Parade Grounds are not in the park proper. There are signs…at the Parade Grounds…that have been there for decades…that clearly state that the Parade Grounds close at dusk. Like playgrounds. Because they’re geared towards children (in the case of the PG, mostly geared).

  46. I too have been mugged. . .more than once, so I sympathize. But the interesting issue here is, where were the police when you (and I) were being mugged? Giving out summonses? That’s a flippant way of making the point that handing out summonses to random people who have no idea the path is closed because signs are discreetly located 100 feet away facing another street, in no way makes us safer. It’s to generate metrics for CompStat and to meet quotas. It’s very telling that people are getting mugged BEHIND A POLICE SUBSTATION.

    I have no objection that the police were stationed on the path. That’s a great thing. But a warning rather than a summons would have sufficed in most cases, especially when it’s clear no one seems to know the path is closed at dusk. No one here is suggesting that they saw a sign that said park closes at dusk, and decided they were special and could just ignore it. We really didn’t see the sign because it isn’t on the path entrance walking from Prospect Park Southwest. It’s hidden and it’s not an accident no one walking down that path saw the sign before getting their summons. From the discussion here, it seems to be a go to spot for the 70th precinct to generate its summons quotas. Again, I’m not particularly angry at the officers who issued the summons. I’m certain they get punished if they don’t hit their numbers. I’m more upset at the policy set by their superiors and the Parks Department hiding the ball. Seriously, who knew without getting a summons that according to some officers at least, that bike riding is prohibited on that path? There’s never been a day I’ve lived here that I haven’t seen a cyclist on that path.

  47. I also found the officers’ insistence that there are clear signs particularly galling. Again, it took me 10 minutes on a very sunny day to find this sign and it’s impossible to see walking down the path. I consider myself extremely lucky not to have been arrested because I told the officers, albeit in a perfectly even voice, what I felt about the validity of the ticket and the character of the decision makers who think court summonses are a good way to make the park safer.

  48. How are they supposed to tell the difference between a law-abiding neighbor who hasn’t seen the sign and someone (possibly from outside the neighborhood) with an arrest record and an outstanding warrant? They’re not supposed to decide based on what people look like. Cops cannot be everywhere, even in front of their own station house, but if I was a cop and needed a convenient place to fill a quota (whether of collars or summonses), I’d go there too. I am all for improving the signs if it will help, but we all know that there are people who don’t pay attention to even the most visible signs or think that it will never happen to them. Bottom line is, the Parade Ground may look like an inviting place to ride your bike or walk your dog, but currently it’s not safe, and the sooner we all realize that, the better.

  49. I hear what you are saying, but this isn’t really about profiling. Consider that stop signs and traffic lights are not discreetly placed, away from the intersections where they are meant to control.We all want motorists to see signs so they can comply. All I’d like to have seen is a prominently placed sign near the entrance. I actually don’t expect police to intercede when crimes are in progress. That’s actually not physically possible most of the time. It does worry me that it’s now fairly established in numerous articles that officers have summons quotas. The officers resent it. We resent it, so why have the quotas?

  50. My family member was detained last weekend with two other people while riding a bike home to work. The officers asked for ID, and my family member showed them. They let the other two go, but aggressively arrested my family member as if the cop wanted to rough him up. Not a ticket, straight arrest. My family member was very calm, thus he was not hurt. My family member saw the judge, and he’s been released. My family member is Hispanic, and the other two people are white. This was an unfair treatment of my family member, criminilazing him for riding his bike home. “Hey, Officer, this is the path I take to go home; I live down the block!” “No. Too bad. You’re coming with us.” “Guess I have to spend the night in jail then.”

  51. Hi Jonathan,
    I’m the editor of Ditmas Park Corner. I’m very sorry to hear about what happened to your family member. I’d like to learn more about the situation. If you are interested, please reach out to me at editor@ditmasparkcorner.com. Thanks.

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