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!
Welcome to another little snippet of Parks and Recreation.
In parks and recreation, obviously, you are serving the public. And if you haven't worked for the government, the word "public", means everyone. Yes, EVERYONE. Until you do, you probably will never quite understand that. This is usually the stem of what drives a lot of the craziness and absurdity that is Parks and Recreation. From millionaire snobs to the down-on-their-luck lifers, we deal with them all, we serve them all, and we treat them all the very same way.
And this includes the homeless. And the weird. And the insane.
Or in this latest True Tale, all of the above.
Throughout the park that I once worked for, like any park, we have several garden beds, lawns, and plant life. After all, it's a park. There is a horticulture division that maintains and creates such beds. As normal, people complain about the location of these beds, and of course, the types of flowers that are being produced. You can't please everyone.
Nonetheless, the park also has it's sheer of regular homeless pedestrians that make their way into the park when it opens. From dragging their cans and bottles in the summer, to huddling up on a bench in the winter for warmth, it is expected to see these folks among your runners, and nannies, and bicyclists, and wall street execs, and tourists, and random celebrities, and your average New Yorker.
But, there was this one homeless man.
Cue the organ.
Dun, dun, dunnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn!!!!
He was odd. Walked with a shimmy and a bounce, yet, would take about ten minutes to cross any street in America. He was that slow. Older man, about mid-fifties, very thin, and very dirty. Wore very raggedy clothes, which were very baggy on him. And yes, as per the norm with all crazies, he talked to himself. Got an image, yet?
But here is the kicker, this man had a reputation in our office of being found several times of...well...ummm...ahem...having sexual intercourse with the dirt. Yes, ladies and gentleman, that sentence was a first here on the DP. And most likely a last.
But yes, this homeless man will shimmy and bounce his way into the park, find a plant bed that attracted him, pull his pants down, and have at it. Once again, for those still in disbelief - With. The. Dirt.
I can't tell you how many times we've received phone calls about this homeless man either "humping the dirt" or radio alerts over the NYPD/Park Enforcement scanner of this occurring.
So one day, as a co-worker and I were strolling through the park back to our offices in the golf cart after leaving a site visit for a potential event, we slowed down at a cross walk to let patrons cross. Only this time, these folks were not just walking, but hurrying out. It was then my co-worker saw the dirt-pervert (my nickname for him in the office, among the many other things he's been called) who was enjoying his intimacy with the earth.
Not sure what do, and partly scared, my co-worker looked at me laughed hysterically. We both did. Because honestly, what do you do here?! Do we say, "Hey, knock it off!" or "Get a room".
So we radioed it in. And almost like a cat that sensed movement towards him, you can see the man pop up and pull up what looked like his underwear rattling the bushes around him. He shimmied out at a speed in which he thought was fast, but of course, was maybe a few paces faster that his norm. As he came out into the open area (and visible to most of the southbound traffic on West Side Highway), he was trying to pull up his pants and kept yelling at us, "I just raped your flowers! How do you like that commies?!"
And he kept screaming, to us as well as to people who were crossing the street into the park.
Park enforcement showed up too late to apprehend him, and the NYPD didn't have enough evidence to further the investigation until Parks Enforcement had him in custody.
I'm sure the NYPD doesn't have some SVU department for plants and/or dirt victims.
The dirt-pervert struck several more times during my stay in Parks and Recreation. And to my knowledge, has yet to be caught.
Yup, dealing with the public is quite interesting. As is everyday in Parks and Recreation.