East City Council Members Ben Kallos (at mike) and Keith Powers (directly to his left), along with other dignitaries, trumpet the installation of seven NYPD security cameras in the pocket parks and culs-de-sac off Sutton Place and Sutton Place South in the East 50s. Photo: David Meister
“It give us a great degree of comfort to know that police will be able to react in real time to any incidents they may see.”
Charles Coutinho, president, Sutton Area Community
Presidents, prime ministers, despots, oligarchs and kings have been descending on the century-old, neo-Georgian townhouse at 3 Sutton Place for cocktails and diplomacy ever since 1972 when it became the official residence of the secretary general of the United Nations.
One might suppose that meeting the security demands of such a guest list would have swaddled the adjoining blocks in a protective cocoon. Actually, residents of the affluent area fronting the East River in the 50s have long had to grapple with security and quality-of-life problems.
Now, their concerns are finally being addressed: A half-mile swath of the East Side that takes in two City Council districts, five vest-pocket parks, six culs-de-sac and eight north-south blocks is being outfitted by the NYPD with seven state-of-the-art security cameras.
Violent crime has never been the issue in the neighborhood of dead-ends bounded by Sutton Place, Sutton Place South and Beekman Place on the west, the FDR Drive and the river to the east, 58th Street on the north and 50th Street to the south.
But the stretch includes a network of mini-parks — formerly known as “Five Parks” and now called Sutton Place Parks — where homelessness, public urination, public intoxication, drug use, vandalism and litter in semi-isolated areas have long worried local parents, children, dog-walkers and seniors.
“When I see people so inebriated they can’t get off the ground it’s a little bit scary,” said Daniel Padnos, vice president of the Sutton Place Conservancy.
“These are hard-to-patrol locations,” said City Council Member Ben Kallos, whose East Side district takes in Sutton Place South up to the north side of 55th Street. Since the parks are entered by walking up or down steps, cops can’t use vehicles and can only reach them by foot, he said.
“They are great refuges and oases in the city, and we have to make sure they have appropriate security so anybody who wants to use them feels safe and secure,” said City Council Member Keith Powers, whose district takes in Sutton Place South up to the south side of 55th Street.
A QUARTER-MILLION DOLLARS FOR SAFETY
Kallos tapped his discretionary funds to buy five security cameras for the northern blocks — each with a live 24/7 feed to the 17th Precinct — and Powers dipped into his Council funds to purchase two more for the culs-de-sac as far south as Beekman Place and 50th Street.
They don’t come cheap: Each camera will cost $35,000 for an overall tab of $245,000. It wasn’t immediately clear when they will be installed.
“Soon, the 17th Precinct will have eyes on the park — and it will be able to respond instantaneously and even proactively,” Kallos said in an Aug. 3 press conference at the river-facing dead end on East 54th Street.
The cameras will serve both as a deterrent to crime and an investigative tool that can be used to pursue offenders, said NYPD Captain Conor Wynne, the commanding officer of the 17th Precinct.
“I think they will prove invaluable. I also hope we don’t need them that often,” he added.
The security measures had been requested by the Conservancy and another civic group, Sutton Area Community.
“It give us a great degree of comfort to know that police will be able to react in real time to any incidents they may see,” said Charles Coutinho, the SAC president.
Added Padnos, “This is not just a recording device, it’s a camera with an eye attached to it. And that’s what makes it special — it will provide live monitoring and live policing, and that’s something we’ve never had before.”