Note: I used to work for a park slowly in continued development in Manhattan that is five miles along the waterfront of the Hudson River. As a Public Programs Coordinator, yours truly handled anything public related in regards to permitting (athletic facilities, film shoots, photo shoots, weddings, and other small gatherings), and of course, dealing with any questions or inquiries from the public. The following series will present stories, e-mails, phone calls, conversations, interactions, and sights I've seen from the people of New York City in regards to a public park. And yes, these are all real! And are all true!
From time to time I would venture out into the park for various reasons, whether to review spaces and locations for upcoming events, or to simply change signage or assist in any occurrences throughout the park. To do so, we traveled throughout the five-mile park in golf carts with the park logo on them. This usually is a dead giveaway that you work for or represent the park, and almost always opens yourself up to questions, feedback, and "recommendations" from the public and park patrons. Whenever going out into the park, I always gave myself a buffer time of fifteen minutes for such encounters.
One encounter that always baffled me was that of a jogger who flagged me down ad was very concerned about her missing items. The following conversation is one that invoked two emotions - sympathy for this poor woman who was naive, and yes, as always, utter disbelief in the decision making of our society.
Woman: Sir! Sir! Sir!
Me: *brakes golf cart* Yes ma'am. What can I do for you?
Woman: My stuff was stolen! Someone took all of my stuff!!
Me: Ok. Were you robbed, or were your belongings taken while...
Woman: No, not robbed. But someone took all of my stuff. They took my phone, keys, jacket, hat, and my bag that had other personal belongings.
Me: OK. Did you see the person? I can radio back to Park enforcement and the NYPD and let them know right now.
Woman: No. I didn't see them. I came back, and all of it was gone.
Me: Came back? From where? What happened?
Woman: I came to the park. My first time here. It's my third day living here. I'm from Kentucky. I put all of my stuff in my bag and left it over there (she points to the pier walkway). I then went for a five mile run up to 61st street, and came back and it was gone.
Woman: Is this stuff common in New York. Do people just take other people's things even if it doesn't belong to them?
Me: Well, umm...yeah. Sorry, to say, some even take your stuff while you are in possession of it. I'll report it anyhow. Give me the description, but the chance of having your things returned is very slim. Almost 0%. There are thousands of people that pass through here, among them teens, runaways, and the homeless. Not to mention, a random bag left is a high security issue. There is a slight chance the bag was taken by security.
Woman: So where I am supposed to put my things when I go running?
Me: In your home.
Woman: Ok, seriously, there is no need to be smart! My things were just taken. I can't even get into my apartment. Who ever it is has my laptop with access to my accounts!
Me: Not trying to be ma'am, just the truth.
Woman: I guess I should go check to see if my jacket and water bottle belt is at 40th street. I left them at the crosswalk light pole as I fatigued.
Me: Yeah, you might want to get those.
So yes, this woman thought New York City was at her disposal, and the streets were her personal locker. No matter where you are from, I can't imagine that kind of mindset actually being reasonable. But then again, as you learn when in Parks and Recreation, all things are possible.