PHOTO: State Sen. Joe Addabbo, Jr. and U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries have called for security upgrades at Spring Creek Park. Jogger Karina Vetrano was brutally murdered inside the federal green space on Aug. 2. Forum Photo by Richard York
By Michael V. Cusenza
Days after the battered body of a beloved Howard Beach jogger was discovered in the marshes of Spring Creek Park, elected officials urged federal and state agencies to install enhanced security measures at the green space.
Karina Vetrano, 30, was beaten, strangled, and sexually assaulted in the evening hours of Aug. 2 on her daily run inside Spring Creek. As of Wednesday afternoon, the case remained unsolved.
For years, civic leaders have called attention to the dangers of the Gateway National Recreation Area park, including the thick, prodigious weeds that concealed the attack on Vetrano from the street.
Last Friday, State Sen. Joe Addabbo, Jr. (D-Howard Beach) called on the National Park Service and the State Department of Environmental Conservation to set up security measures near the park while carrying out an upcoming flood-mitigation project in the same area.
The DEC is still in the preliminary stages of a project, set to begin in 2017, to install an elevated berm at Spring Creek South that will help protect against flooding and other storm-related issues. Addabbo is urging the agency to consider amending their plans to allow for security measures to be added while the construction is taking place.
“The safety of individuals in and around Spring Creek Park has been an issue for years and a recent tragedy there has shed serious light on the need for major security additions at Spring Creek,” said Addabbo. “While I agree it is important that we cherish and preserve what little undeveloped park space we have here in Queens, it should not come at the cost of sacrificing a person’s safety. It is time that we protect those who frequent this area by providing proper security measures – whether that be cameras, lighting or other devices – that will not only deter criminals from committing heinous acts, but will also help law enforcement.”
On Monday, U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-Queens and Brooklyn) penned a letter to U.S. Department of the Interior Sec. Sally Jewell, asking for enhanced security patrols and other preventive actions to protect residents who visit Spring Creek.
“The fact that this vibrant, bright young woman was brutally assaulted and killed in broad daylight at the largest urban National Park in the nation shocks the conscience,” Jeffries wrote. “Residents in Howard Beach and throughout New York City deserve a safe and secure recreational space. In this regard, there are several steps the National Park Service should take in order to enhance security and prevent a tragic incident like this from happening again.
“First, the Department of the Interior must provide the Gateway National Recreation Area with the resources needed to maintain the parkland in a manner that controls growth of the shrubbery and weeds, which is a potential shelter for criminal conduct. Second, the DOI should work closely with City, State and Federal law enforcement authorities in order to increase the security presence in the area – including significantly enhanced patrols by U.S. Park Police in the interior and on the perimeter of the park. Third, the park needs improved lighting and security cameras to monitor activity and serve as a deterrent. Lastly, the DOI should expedite execution of the $69 million ecological restoration project which will greatly improve the user-friendly nature of the park.”
A DOI spokeswoman told The Forum that the agency is in receipt of Jeffries’ missive, “recognizes [that] this is a difficult time for the family of Katrina Vetrano and we will respond to Rep. Jeffries directly.”