Categorized | Bronx, Crime, Featured, Honduran, Issues, News

Ferry Point Raid Leaves Hondurans Jittery


Saturday was a crisp, fall soccer-filled day at Ferry Point Park in the Throgs Neck neighborhood of the Bronx. The New York Honduras Soccer League playoffs were well underway on two fields, with families cheering for their favorites and women on the sidelines offering Honduran treats like baleadas and pupusas.

Suddenly, two police cars, along with trucks and SUVs labeled “Parks Enforcement,” pulled up, accompanied by a large green garbage truck. As uniformed officers stepped out of their cars, the Honduran vendors scrambled to hide food and beer.

As the raid began, Maria Martinez stood behind a portable table draped with blue and pink tablecloths and covered with take-out boxes and a giant bowl of refried beans. Under the table were coolers of juices, soft drinks and pounds of uncooked chicken. As police watched from the distance, Parks Enforcement officials grabbed the coolers and tossed them into the garbage truck, container after container, until all that remained was the table and its coverings.

“That is her property!” yelled someone in the crowd that gathered to watch the raid. “You’re just going to throw it all away?” yelled another.

The officials carrying out the raid said nothing. But when they had finished with the coolers, they took Martinez’s table and tablecloths and threw them into the garbage truck’s maw, too.

“They walked up and asked for my ID, and I told them it was at home and they just started throwing it all away,” said the distraught Martinez, as the garbage truck hummed into action and crushed her way of life.

Saturday’s raid in Ferry Point Park came in the wake of recent neighborhood complaints about litter, public urination, food sales by unlicensed vendors, and illegal sales of alcohol in the 413-acre park. Parks Enforcement issued nine tickets during the raid, a parks spokesman said later.  Police officials also issued five summonses, said Lieutenant Paul Trapani from the 45th precinct, which has jurisdiction over Ferry Point Park.

Parks Enforcement Patrol – the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation enforcement arm – conducts regular patrols of Ferry Point Park and works closely with police to crack down on illegal vending that contributes to Ferry Point’s littering problem, a parks spokesperson said.

“We were addressing many complaints that have been issued, and Saturday’s event was just one way to enforce the quality-of-life issues in the park,” Lt. Trapani said.

But litter and park cleanliness were not the first things that came to mind for the Honduran immigrants in Ferry Point on Saturday. The park is a popular gathering point for Hondurans, some of them living here legally, and some not. Regardless of their status, the sudden arrival of uniformed officers and the high profile way in which they dismantled Maria Martinez’s makeshift food stand was unsettling.

“They didn’t come and talk, they just started throwing it away,” said Gladys Posas, who, with her husband Oscar, had come to the park to meet a friend and watch the soccer matches.  “I’ve seen them come before, but not like this,” she said.

The illegal sale of alcohol, brought into the park in baby strollers and other carriers, is a common sight at the soccer matches. “They are usually going after the people with the beer and that is different,” said Posas.

Geoffrey Croft, president of the NYC Park Advocates, a non-profit watchdog for the park, was at Ferry Point when the officers arrived. Croft said he is sympathetic to the vendors, but critical of the city’s record of maintaining and monitoring Ferry Point Park.

“There is a ton of illegal activity going on,” he said. “The fields are in deplorable condition because the city refuses to take care of them – there are not even any park safety lights.”

While the park enforcement team threw away Maria Martinez’s vending materials, a different sanction was used on Marlon Rodriguez and his family, who were all issued summonses.  The Rodrigues family was given three summonses by officers for illegal food sales, and a citation – for having a propane tank in the park, which is against city regulations. The officer who issued the propane citation told Marlon Rodriguez it was a civil infraction, requiring payment of a $50 fine but no court appearance.

The family told the officers they had been giving free food to soccer players, not selling it, but they issued the citations anyway. Croft, the park advocates group president, told the family they could dispute the illegal sales charge when they appear, as summoned, on December 18th at the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings.

Although the soccer players didn’t stop playing during Saturday’s raid, they lost the crowd’s attention, at least until police left the park. And many continued to grumble about the raid well after it ended.

“The people come to the park to enjoy – why don’t [the police] go look for the people who sell drugs and kill people?” asked Salvador Orellania, the coach for the Deportido Guapinol soccer team. “People come here to enjoy football, and this is what [the police] does to them?”

As Rodriguez’s family packed their belongings to go home, Maria Martinez was still sitting on the other side of the park in her fold-up chair – the only thing the officers left behind besides her portable grill, emptied of all its contents.  Passersby tried to console her, but she couldn’t move. Martinez said she has sold her Honduran foods in Ferry Point Park for four years, and that business had been a mainstay of her income.

“A ticket is fine,” she said. “But to throw away everything…”



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