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East Harlem park presents premises liabilities

A park in East Harlem has become a haven for addicts and the homeless, according to New York City officials and local residents alike. The dangerous property conditions present in the park could cause a visitor to be injured and give rise to premises liability claims against the city.

In Harlem River Park, visitors must step over used condoms and syringes scattered over the ground. An interstate overpass provides partial shelter for some homeless people who sleep on cardboard board boxes broken down and laid on the ground. Prostitutes trade sex acts for money that is quickly spent on drugs that are then used openly in the park.

The commanding officer of New York City's 25th Precinct, a police captain, agreed that residents' "quality of life issues are legitimate." He added that thus far this year, officers have arrested 15 people for prostitution-related offenses in the park, more than double the six in 2013.

The problem may have been exacerbated by the 2010 decision of the city's Transportation Department to make pedestrian-accessible intersections by the entrances. Apparently, the so-called improvements were a beacon to the wrong type of park visitor, however.

One 60-year-old resident passes the homeless enclave every day and said, "In the last five years, it's gotten worse. These people need help." A local grandmother quit taking her grandkids to the park because she heard a man was exposing himself to people there. A local news crew saw addicts openly using heroin.

More than 100 people have been arrested in the park since 2013, including homeless people, prostitutes and drug dealers, one community leader alleged.

One man makes his home underneath the overpass by Lexington Ave. and 129th St. A shopping cart is parked beside the cardboard on which he sleeps each night. It holds all of his earthly belongings. The 46-year-old man said, "I don't like shelters." He's been without a home for two decades, but spent a year at a Wards Island shelter. He prefers the streets.

Property owners, whether they be the City of New York or private owners, have a responsibility to keep their properties free of hazardous conditions. If you have been injured at an unsafe site, you may be entitled to compensation. A New York personal injury attorney can advise you of your rights.

Source: New York Daily News, "Residents complain Harlem River Park near 129th St. plagued by prostitutes, drugs and the homeless" Jan Ransom, Oct. 27, 2014

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