Outrage of the Week: Chess Players Ticketed for Being Near Playground

Hi Readers — I’m sorry to say, this itftbasrsy
is happening
in MY town, New York City: Seven chess players have to appear in court for playing the game of kings on the stone chess tables close to a playground — a playground where adults are forbidden unless they are accompanied by a child.

Because, of course, any human anywhere NEAR a child who isn’t personally taking care of one MUST be a monstrosity.

Except these particular monstrosities quietly play chess together. Have for years.  They even teach the local kids how to play. Terrifying!

Oh wise authorities: What makes a community? It’s people interacting, simple as that. People of different ages getting to know each other and, at best, even helping each other.

At least until it’s criminalized. — Lenore

Get a load of these budding miscreants!

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90 Responses to Outrage of the Week: Chess Players Ticketed for Being Near Playground

  1. markus baur November 18, 2010 at 12:42 am #

    so who put those stone playing tables there .. ?

    they did it to enable pedophiles .. sue them !!!!!! 😎

  2. themother November 18, 2010 at 12:52 am #

    Didn’t you know that chess is the favorite activity of pedophiles everywhere?

  3. Melissa November 18, 2010 at 12:53 am #

    I loved the movie Searching for Bobby Fischer, a based on real life story of a chess prodigy who was heavily influenced by a adult he met on the chessboards at Washington Square Park. Never would have happened with draconian rules like this in place.

    clip (warning, apparently contains illegal adults at a park unaccompanied by a minor) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sSV2IFNgqI4

  4. Lola November 18, 2010 at 12:56 am #

    Actually, this seems to be a problem with “failing to comply with the signs”, which are “designed to protect the community”.
    I would suggest the community to start putting up signs that read “Community Park. No Police Allowed, unless clear and present danger.”

  5. EricS November 18, 2010 at 1:04 am #

    Ridiculous!! I really hope that neighborhood pulls together and support the cause. It would seem that has been “tradition” for years. Knowing some NYPD officers, tradition is a big thing for them. I’m sure in hind sight they realized that they were wrong, but can’t admit to it, without repercussions. That’s why I always say, THINK before you act. It’s called common sense, everyone has it and is free to use it. Keeps you from having to pull that foot out of your mouth, and keeps you from getting one in the rear. lol

  6. tommynomad November 18, 2010 at 1:14 am #

    Aren’t such “don’t-be-here” regulations simply unconstitutional anyway? Growing up in Canada (with lots of Schoolhouse Rock & other US edutainment), my knowledge is thin at best, but it seems to me the tickets can simply be opposed on that basis, no?

  7. Linda November 18, 2010 at 1:14 am #

    Even if we were to leave aside the ridiculousness of the “not unless accompanied by a minor” rule, couldn’t the police have handled this by just asking the chess players to leave, rather than giving them a summons? Do they actually issue a summons to everyone who’s in the park after closing time (another infraction listed in the article), or do they say, “Hey, guys, the park is closed, so you’ll have to leave”?

    Then again, maybe bringing this all the way to court is the best answer. Maybe it will bring the craziness to the attention of people who can work to change things.

  8. Mike November 18, 2010 at 1:17 am #

    OK, this is probably way, WAY over the top, but…. Should people start arming themselves, for protection from the police?

  9. dannyb November 18, 2010 at 1:19 am #

    In case anyone’s doubting this story, I’ve put up a photo of the official NYC Parks Department sign that, yes, says:

    “Playground rules prohibit…
    Adults Except in the Company of Children”

    it’s at:

  10. helenquine November 18, 2010 at 1:24 am #

    Mike – are you seriously suggesting a shoot out next to a kids playground in order to avoid the ticket? That would indeed seem to be way WAY over the top.

    This is really, really sad and a great illustration of why the “no unaccompanied adults” rules are detrimental to our society at large and our kids in particular.

  11. Uly November 18, 2010 at 1:29 am #

    Do they actually issue a summons to everyone who’s in the park after closing time (another infraction listed in the article), or do they say, “Hey, guys, the park is closed, so you’ll have to leave”?

    Yes, actually, they do. It’s a not-very-well-kept secret that the cops have quotas they’re supposed to make.

  12. Deborah November 18, 2010 at 1:45 am #

    Unbelievable! I have 3 sons, 2 of which are avid chess players (the 3rd is only 3 – but he is starting to learn!) We live an hour from NY and have made special trips to the city just to seek out chess games in parks like this! Never for a minute would I consider a man sitting by himslef looking for a chess game to automatically be a pedophile. But then I must be naive and not watch enough crime dramas on TV. I’ve been so proud of my kids going up to strangers and asking them for a game of chess, enjoying polite conversation, learning new moves and then respectfully shaking hands with the “stranger.” The lack of common sense in our world never ceases to amaze me.

  13. RareRoastBeef November 18, 2010 at 1:47 am #

    You know something? After more than four decades of traveling, living and working in many communities across Canada and the United States, I have never had an unpleasant interaction with any agent of law enforcement. I’ve always tried to maintain a level of personal respect for police officers because they are responsible for doing a job that is both important and difficult, and because most of the cops that I’ve met seemed to be decent human beings.

    But this is asinine. Absurd. Ridiculous. What kind of law-enforcement official makes a decision to go after this kind of behaviour?

  14. MFA Grad November 18, 2010 at 1:56 am #


    You have got to be kidding me. It’s CHESS!! God forbid those kids are taught the basics of strategy through actual interaction with physical human beings in a public park instead of sitting inside their house bubble in front of a computer. Oh wait – because any adult willing to spend time with a kid not their own is automatically a pedophile.

    Please tell me this is actually an Onion article, please?!?

  15. EricS November 18, 2010 at 2:11 am #

    @dannyb: are there any other signs that indicate that one can be ticketed or fined for not adhering to the rules? Normally, there is a notice of that. Even parking signs indicate one can be ticketed and/or towed. I’ve also often wondered, if these same law enforcers ticket j-walkers (plenty of those in NYC), litterers, spitters, cyclists going down the wrong way on a one way street, etc… chances are, if they are like most other cops across North America, they don’t. These infractions are still against the law (by-laws), and no different than the rules of the park. Funny thing about the “law”. The law is the law, but officers seems to pick and choose which ones they uphold. Interesting.

    @Uly: Yes! Those damned quotas! Don’t they have anything better to do. Like…oh, say…stopping REAL crime? Maybe real crime is to tough for them to deal with so they target the easy preys, like innocent people who are there to help better the community.

  16. pentamom November 18, 2010 at 2:12 am #

    On a semi-related note, my husband took our two sons to a chess tournament 15 miles away a couple of weekends ago. Since my younger son’s division finished in mid-afternoon and my husband and older son’s games were scheduled to go into late evening, my husband arranged a ride home for younger son ALONE WITH A MAN. This is a gentleman they’ve all known for several years from the chess club, though I’ve never even met him.

    He arrived home safe, believe it or not. So there’s at least one chess player out there who plays in public, befriends little boys, and yet is not a threat.

  17. Matt November 18, 2010 at 2:18 am #

    Hey, cut the police a break here — we all know Chess is both addictive, and is a gateway to the harder stuff — soon these kids might be hooked on quadratic equations or astrophysics. You wouldn’t want that happening to your child, would you?

  18. Christina November 18, 2010 at 2:21 am #

    There is a good argument to be made that the presence of these chess players act as a deterrent to less desirable persons who might otherwise use the area to hang out. There have been studies about this sort of thing, I believe. The police should have been thanking them rather than issuing a summons.

  19. Christina November 18, 2010 at 2:22 am #

    Ugh! It should be “… presence… acts…” . The grammar, it is weak these days. My apologies.

  20. RareRoastBeef November 18, 2010 at 2:25 am #

    @Matt: You’re displaying an alarming anti-nerd bias. 😉 What, you don’t think math and science are “cool”? Geek Pride!

  21. Jay November 18, 2010 at 2:27 am #

    Insane. I agree with the comment in the article “shouldn’t they move the tables”! And am shocked that they were in an area that was separated from the play area by a fence, but are still considered a threat!

    @pentamom, on a similarly semi-related note, last summer I was out on Vancouver Island, where my daughter spent a year going to school.

    I was headed 2 hours up-island from where we were, and she wanted to go to Victoria (2 hours farther south) but only if she could get a ride with someone.

    The “someone” ended up being a male teacher from her old school that I had never met, but that she knew.

    We met on a dark rural road in front of the now-closed school, and I handed my 16yo daughter over to this man I didn’t know and let her drive off with him.

    She too arrived safe and sound at her event, met her friends and had a great time. Men that we don’t know are no more (or less) risk than men that we DO know!

  22. Silver Fang November 18, 2010 at 2:29 am #

    Someone seriously needs to challenge these no adults rules on constitutional grounds. A public park is just that, public. That means everyone is free to use every part of it during its open hours.

  23. pentamom November 18, 2010 at 2:36 am #

    @Christina, excellent point! It only works, though, on the assumption that some people actually definitively AREN’T pedophiles. When the working assumption is that anyone “could be,” there’s no concept of more desirable people keeping less desirable ones away — adults in general, particularly males, are by definition undesirable.

  24. Into The Wild! November 18, 2010 at 2:51 am #

    I agree with Matt, above. I guess playing chess is the “gateway” to hardened criminal activities, like quantum physics, et al. We need to put those budding scientists under lock and key!

    Here’s an idea: maybe the parents in this neighborhood could get together with these gentle(chess)men and have them work out a schedule with their kids to meet at the playground, so that when they are confronted again, their answer could be: “I’m with (kid’s name), his parents gave me permission to play chess with him.” and produce a note from the parents, saying he is teaching their child the game.

    And this comment from my husband (who’s worked in law enforcement for over 30 years and thought he’d seen it all): Wow, this takes stupid to a whole new level.

  25. Sky November 18, 2010 at 3:01 am #

    The article said these guys had to go to “criminal court.” Is this really a criminal violation? Isn’t it just a ticket, like a traffic violation? Isn’t it just a way for the city to raise money? Of course, it’s a ridiculous rule to erect in the first place.

  26. Lola November 18, 2010 at 3:08 am #

    @Matt: LOL!!

  27. BrianJ November 18, 2010 at 3:15 am #

    I hate to point this out, but I wonder how race and class played into the police action. The picture that accompanies the article that shows an older black man playing chess with a white boy. This pic could have been taken in my neighborhood in Oakland. I wonder if the police would have reacted at all if the kids involved were black. The way the article reads, the police showed up and went right to the chess players. That indicates a that they went there specifically site the chess players, and might even imply that the police action was as a result of a complaint.

  28. Steve November 18, 2010 at 3:53 am #

    The article said:

    “Captain Jose Navarro, of the 34th Precinct, told DNAinfo he had reviewed the ticket and stood by his officers’ actions.”

    Remember that name for future reference:

    Captain Jose Navarro — 34th Precinct,

    Captain Jose Navarro — 34th Precinct,

    Captain Jose Navarro — 34th Precinct,

  29. Nicola November 18, 2010 at 3:59 am #

    You know, as much as I love this board, sometimes I wonder why we aren’t talking to the people that make it count? We’re all upset by what the cops did, but has anyone written to the station? Written to the captain? Petitioned their neighbors to get signatures to get the park changed back to a place where ALL people can spend their time?

    Until we start doing things like that, the window of freedom for our children WILL continue to close – because we can preach all we want to the choir, we’re not going to reach the audience that needs it most.

    Captain Jose A. Navarro
    Crime Statistics
    4295 Broadway, New York, NY, 10033
    (212) 927-9711

    Contact Information

    Precinct: (212) 927-9711
    Community Affairs: (212) 927-0576 / 0287
    Community Policing: (212) 927-1484
    Crime Prevention: (212) 927-9301
    Domestic Violence: (212) 927-0821
    Youth Officer: (212) 927-0701
    Auxiliary Coordinator: (212) 927-0700
    Detective Squad: (212) 927-0823

    Community Council

    President: George Espinal
    Vice President: Luz Bermudez
    Recording Secretary: Martin Collins
    Treasurer: Cynthia Auburn
    Sergeant At Arms: Phyllis Smizaski

    Meetings: The Community Council meets the last Wednesday of the month at the 34 Precinct stationhouse.various locations throughout the precinct at 7:00 p.m. Please contact the Community Affairs officer at(212)927-0287 for additional information.


    Fight it, people.

  30. Jane November 18, 2010 at 5:14 am #

    I’ve seen those signs at a couple of park playground and wondered, how is a PUBLIC area deemed to be for only PART of the public?

    And if the chess players in question were at a table on the OTHER side of the fence, and were not even IN the playground ….

    Do we live in Russia now? Perhaps Communist China?

  31. Michaela November 18, 2010 at 5:24 am #

    Thank you so much for picking up on this story and posting it. The surge of comments will definitely help our community as we attempt to fight back against this ridiculous action.

    We’ve had a rise in crime here recently – muggings and whatnot – and yet THIS is how the police decide to spend their time.

    It is truly sad and frustrating, and we WILL be working to stop the fear-based foolishness in Inwood!

  32. RobC November 18, 2010 at 5:24 am #

    “couldn’t the police have handled this by just asking the chess players to leave, rather than giving them a summons?”

    *pfft* They’ll never meet their quota doing that!

    Anyway, this is NYC cops we’re talking about. The same NYC cops who park in bike lanes just so they can ticket bike riders for riding outside the bike lane when they swerve around the cop car that’s parked in the bike lane.

  33. tana November 18, 2010 at 6:05 am #

    oh no! intelligent men who are willing to teach children a game that requires strategic thought- for free! stop those miscreants before someone grows up with a working brain! they might…realize that staying out of debt is a wise strategy- there goes the economy! they might…read & research politicians and vote based on facts instead of hideous campaign ads- there goes the country! they might realize that the gentlemen playing chess didn’t hurt them, and let their own kids out to play alone- then all the pedophiles that aren’t striking now will have targets. we have to protect the children! good grief.

    i wonder if enough people locally would volunteer to take turns playing/learning to play chess during park hours with no attendant child. would it just stimulate new york’s income, or would the constant flow of innocents protesting tickets make an impact?

  34. helenquine November 18, 2010 at 6:07 am #

    To a large extent I find the police bashing to be really missing the point.

    I do think there’s some blame there. They should be using common sense and discretion – that’s the whole point of having trained humans in the role.

    But really it’s the *rule* that’s batshit. The anger should be focused on the local government folk (and the community members who support them) who think pushing unaccompanied adults out is appropriate in the first place. The police are one of the tiniest (though brightest) pieces of the larger picture.

  35. LauraL November 18, 2010 at 6:28 am #

    Lenore, might you possibly be some sort of expert witness and supply the statistics you’ve researched?

  36. kimelah November 18, 2010 at 6:41 am #

    “adults are forbidden unless they are accompanied by a child”

    Right. Because we all know how easy it is to play chess while watching a kid.
    Then it’ll be: those attempting to play chess will be hauled away for not adequately supervising their kid, as in both eyes on that kid at all times.
    Gotta love this world.

  37. Brian November 18, 2010 at 7:11 am #

    The additionally insane part of this story is that apparently there are crime problems in that park, but the police aren’t doing anything about drug dealers, muggers, and actual criminals. Probably because chess players aren’t likely to fight back.

    For a bit of awesome free-range parenting in New York on this issue, there’s the Games Workshop store I regularly go to at 8th St. between Broadway and University. Kids (9-12 or so) are left unattended by their parents and play complicated games with adults! They may even use knives and superglue! And the adults are pretty much all men! (granted, the kids are all boys) Sometimes they even go next door or across the street for food! Alone!

    Shockingly, there haven’t been any incidences of molestation–but there are kids who have gotten pretty good at painting, modeling miniatures, and they develop an interest in military history and strategy that results in an ability to quote Sun Tzu’s Art of War and explain why the British won at Agincourt.

  38. Jenne November 18, 2010 at 7:44 am #

    Am I the only one who wonders, grimly, who called in a complaint about this to trigger the ticketing?

  39. Dragonwolf November 18, 2010 at 7:47 am #

    @Deborah — Ironically, the crime drama that’s about arguably the worst of the worst, Criminal Minds, has an episode where one of the agents is playing chess at a stone table in a park with a kid, and he does it on a regular basis.

  40. Rich Wilson November 18, 2010 at 9:20 am #

    Sacramento has City Code 12.72.060 which says:
    I. No person eighteen (18) years or older shall remain in or enter a children’s playground area unless actually engaged in the care, custody or supervision of a person younger than eighteen (18) years of age who is using the facilities in the area;

  41. bmj2k November 18, 2010 at 9:52 am #

    This “think of the children” mentality simply takes away rights from adults. At some point we have to wake up and realize that this is an adult world.

  42. sophiecg November 18, 2010 at 10:12 am #

    you know what, if my nearly nine-year-old chess fanatic son lived near that park, he’d be playing chess with the chess players … and then what? they’d be arrested for luring a child into playing chess? really, i despair of this insane world we now find ourselves in.

  43. RP November 18, 2010 at 10:24 am #

    As a teacher, AND and as someone who has been struggling with infertility for a couple years – I am always very saddened to read about places where adults are not welcome, unless they have kids with them. I may not have my own kids yet (though I desperately want them – hey, I even read blogs like this in preparation of possibly having them someday), but as a teacher, I have a vested interest in finding new family-friendly places I can suggest to my families, or take my students on future field trips.

    Would I not be welcome at this park either, just because a child would not be with me at the time I’m checking it out??

  44. Kymlee November 18, 2010 at 11:53 am #

    Aww, that’s so sad! Who else is going to use those chess tables if not the old guys who always used them? We have parks with chess tables in them. It’s always retired old men making use of them, and they usually don’t even take notice of the kids, unless a kid happens to walk over to the chess table. The ban on adults at the playground is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard. Its a sad day when old men can’t even play chess in park.

  45. Virginia November 18, 2010 at 2:01 pm #

    This reeks of cops trying to improve their precinct’s statistics by busting people for no particular reason. Check out this “This American Life” podcast (Act II) for more:


  46. Louise November 18, 2010 at 6:55 pm #

    Things like this make me despair for the future of mankind. This is completely crazy, and makes a mockery of the police. Again, something that should be celebrated in the community, not prosecuted.

  47. oncefallendotcom November 18, 2010 at 9:23 pm #

    Hide your children! After all, the game of Chess has been teaching violence for a millennium or so; the object of the game is to use your army of pawns, Castles (rooks), Knights, Bishops, and even your Queen to capture the enemy king. Each piece “kidnaps” the enemy pieces. It is a terrible game, teaching militarism, which ultimately leads to despotism– even church members and women get in on the violence! I won’t even mention the sexual undertones of the game, with most pieces shaped like a phallus. Seeing as how the Queen is the most sought after and versatile character in the game, much of the strategy involves boxing her in like you’re trying to gang-rape her, so it is obviously promoting violence against women. Since the queen is the only feminine piece on the table, and not shaped very womanly, Chess promotes racism. Since most Chess games involve white and black pieces, it is possibly racist as well. Thus, those who play the game should be monitored closely.

    [I was being sarcastic, of course]

  48. oncefallendotcom November 18, 2010 at 9:49 pm #

    Okay, all joking aside, no one mentioned HOW THE POLICE APPROACHED the men.

    The police showed up and made a beeline for the chess players. It implies the police were called by some “concerned citizen.”

  49. Robin November 18, 2010 at 10:04 pm #

    I agree with prior posters that say to ignore what the police did and go after the constitutionality of the regulation itself. How can it be legal for a public park to not be open to all the public? If the sign said it wasn’t legal to be an unacommpanied black teen the neighborhood would have a fit (rightfully so). They need to have a fit over this regulation. And once the precedent is set, other communites can use it to get rid of similar laws. It’s got to start somewhere.

  50. LEA November 18, 2010 at 10:44 pm #

    wow first I’m baffled as to why and how you have a playground where adults are only allowed with children. I thought public parks were for the public, all of it? These chess tables weren’t even in the playground area either, they were outside of it. If adults aren’t suppose to be in that park without a child then why the chess tables? I know kids play chess but it is an awfully attractive activity to adults as well. It even appears to be a tradition for the adults to teach the kids in this park how to play.

    I guess we (society) have decided that all men who sit in open public spaces where children might be, but don’t actually have a child with them, are automatically bad and should be banned?

    I’m pretty sure these aren’t the people the neighborhood citizens were asking for help with when they wanted the police to patrol the area more frequently after a mugging. Now the NYC PD has a lot of public egg on their face as does the parks department.

  51. Jessika November 19, 2010 at 2:01 am #

    I’m speachless…

  52. Rich Wilson November 19, 2010 at 5:27 am #

    NY Times take, with comments:

  53. culdesachero November 19, 2010 at 10:43 am #

    I can’t believe we’re coming to this. I hope it is the beginning of the end of the madness that inspired this site but I fear it is only the beginning of the madness. If this Police State is allowed to continue infringing on the rights of law abiding citizens based on sexist stereotypes, it bodes very badly for the future.

  54. Metanoia November 19, 2010 at 11:51 am #

    This is so absurd it made news in Australia too:

  55. SgtMom November 19, 2010 at 4:42 pm #

    “…there was no one left to speak out when they came for me…”

    Welcome to the Slippery Slope.

    This type of banishment already exists with the full approval of “good citizens” for those on sex offender registries, whether they are a danger to children or not.

    Now Park Banishment applies to ALL adults.

    It’s called Taxation Without Representation, ladies and gentleman.

    It’s called Not Standing Up For Your Constitutional Rights – especially after you did not stand up for the Constitutional rights of others.

    It’s called “If they can do it to the “undesirables” it’s only a matter of time before they can do it to YOU.

  56. Dragonwolf November 19, 2010 at 9:52 pm #

    bmj2k — I’d argue that it’s both an adult’s and a child’s world. We all live in this world and we should all coexist within in, because without one the other won’t exist.

    Unfortunately, our society has continuously widened the generation gap by repeatedly telling progressively older kids “no, you can’t do that, you’re not old enough, you’re not capable,” even with things they had been doing for generations.

  57. Margaret November 20, 2010 at 12:10 am #

    No time to read all the comments right now, but I hope at least one of the players argues against the tickets because it is entrapment — the playground has chess tables near the park, and then gives you a ticket if you use them!

  58. Margaret November 20, 2010 at 12:26 am #

    And I might add that in my little town, it would be nice if more adults were in the park, because then maybe the teenagers wouldn’t flip all the swing seats over the top bar so that the little kids can’t use the swings! The more eyes out the better.

    Unless there is a constant park patrol, would you, intending to harm a child, prefer to look for one where there are many onlookers or one where onlookers are prohibtted? Oh yeah, it doesn’t matter, because soon kids won’t be allowed in the parks along either.

  59. Margaret November 20, 2010 at 12:31 am #

    And I might add that in my little town, it would be nice if more adults were in the park, because then maybe the teenagers wouldn’t flip all the swing seats over the top bar so that the little kids can’t use the swings! The more eyes out the better.

    Unless there is a constant park patrol, would you, intending to harm a child, prefer to look for one in a park where there are many onlookers or one where onlookers are prohibtted? Oh yeah, it doesn’t matter, because soon kids won’t be allowed in the parks alone either.

  60. jim November 20, 2010 at 1:56 am #

    @Jane –
    Actually, playing chess with strangers in public is an old and honorable tradition in Russia, which led to some incredible breakthoughs in math and science. Political nincompoops but great chess players, mathmaticians and scientists. But yeah, it sounds like the NYPD has been taking lessons from the KGB.

  61. Jules November 20, 2010 at 3:10 am #

    @danny b: thanks for posting that! I’m shocked by some of the other items on the list as well. No scooters or skateboards or the like? It’s a PLAYground! No standing on the swings? I used to love doing that as a kid!
    What’s next, no playing?

  62. Lulu November 20, 2010 at 4:31 am #

    1. guessing those tickets will be thrown out. if there was a wall between those guys and the playground, then they can argue they were not in the actual playground, but in the park.

    2. i have no problem with the rule that adults without kids can’t hang out in playgrounds in NYC–but i am talking abut the actual playground part of a park, usually enclosed by an iron fence, and not the entire park. There are plenty of places adults can go where kids are not welcomed and in a crowded city, often there is no where for a parent or caregiver to sit and relax in the play area to (gasp) supervise their kids if random adults are taking up bench space in the actual playground space (but again, I am not talking about the whole park)

    3. seems like a contradiction for some FRK types to lament that parents might want to keep an eye on their own young children in a city playground, but then claim that it makes kids safer to have random adults there to watch over them. No, sorry, it doesn’t.

    4. again, i think these tickets were wrongly handed out. the chess area seems not really part of the playground, but in the park part, which should be open to everyone– but i don’t agree that random adults should be able to hang out in playgrounds in NYC where space is premium–leave those seats for the the little kids and their caregivers.

  63. Dragonwolf November 20, 2010 at 8:22 am #

    Lulu – Regarding number 3 – What?

    Having good adults around, regardless of whether they’re somewhere with their own kids does make the kids safer. It makes everyone safer, because they act as a deterrent for those who would want to do harm to anyone there.

    Having the people playing chess there also benefits everyone because it allows the potential for adults and children to interact with each other and provides opportunities for the kids to learn chess. At least one of the men there had been invited a couple years ago to go play chess there and teach the kids how to play.

  64. Lulu November 20, 2010 at 9:27 am #

    so, we should get rid of background checks at day care centers? right? because we should just a ssume that a random adult who wants to hang out with kids is always ok? i’m probably not saying this right. It isn’t good for parents to watch out for their kids at the playground and according to a lot of the FRK types, that is what you advocate and are proud of “i send my 5 year old to the playground by herself all the time, it’s great! ” If you take your five year old there and stay and keep an eye on them you are a smothering helicopter parent, BUT it is somehow better for our children for random adults to keep their eye on someone else’s kids in public. No, sorry, that is nuts. I am not saying these random adults are bad people and i stated i had NO PROBLEM with the chess players who are clearly a part of the community there and not causing problems. I am just disturbed/confused by people advocating that parents not watch their own children (because that would be smothering) but random strangers should–because that makes everyone safer.

  65. Rich Wilson November 20, 2010 at 10:09 am #


    You’re mixing two separate things.

    It’s not that watching over your own kids at the park is a bad thing, it’s that sometimes, when they’re old enough, giving them some freedom is a good thing.

    And at some point kids need to interact with adults other than their own parents. And yes, more adults around is going to be safer. If you have one adult, that adult could be a pedophile and nobody would be there to stop her. If you had a group of adults, and one tried to take the kid off alone, the others would surely say something.

    Slightly related,I lived a few blocks away when Stephen Reid (Stopwatch Gang) did his last bank robbery. The cops were alerted by a homeless guy who had his hat out in front of the bank.

  66. anon November 20, 2010 at 1:03 pm #

    fwiw i was taught to play chess as a young teen by an old guy i eventually realized was masturbating under the table whilst educating me on the ways of bishops & pawns. in public.

  67. SgtMom November 20, 2010 at 6:33 pm #

    anon, on November 20, 2010 at 13:03 said:
    fwiw i was taught to play chess as a young teen by an old guy i eventually realized was masturbating under the table whilst educating me on the ways of bishops & pawns. in public.

    So did you walk away from the situation, Anon? Did you tell your parents?

    Are you forever “scarred for life”?

    Frankly, I once saw a monkey publicly masterbating in the Independance, KS zoo. He was looking right at me.

    I guess you could say I was “scarred for life”, since that happened decades ago and I still remember it with revulsion.

    I’ve seen dogs fornicating in public. I’ve seen them peeing and pooping in public as well as suckling their young without smothering them under a blanket so as not to cause offense to those of more delicate sensibilities.

    Probably for the sake of decency all animals who can’t control their animalistic impulses should be locked up forever, not just human animals.

  68. culdescahero November 20, 2010 at 8:59 pm #

    Checking the background of employees is a lot different than assuming that anyone anywhere near the vacinity of children in a public area is guilty of peadophilia (the implication of the sign they are charged with disobeying). Background checks are basically to cover the buts of the employers and government regulators. They are a very basic safety measure and, do not prevent ANYTHING, by themselves. Would you feel better letting just any stranger into the park based on his past criminal record?
    You’re purposely exagerating the opinions of the posters on this site. Keeping an eye on your 5 year old in public is not helicopter parenting. Holding their hand the entire time they are at the park when they are mature enough and want to play by themselves is helicoptering. Older kids (e.g. 9 years old) might be able to go by themselves, if judged mature enough and taking into account the condition of the neighbourhood. So nobody is saying that you have to leave them alone. But, if you live in a safe neighbourhood but are afraid to let a mature 9 year old play in your front yard while you’re getting dinner ready, you need to take a good hard look at yourself and you might find some blades a-whirrin’.
    What is advocated here is letting parents make the judgement by themselves. But of course, you’re looking for absolute, all-encompassing rules to keep everyone safe (they don’t exist) instead of reasonable people thinking for themselves.

  69. manhattanspeak November 20, 2010 at 11:48 pm #

    I am stunned to watch/learn how many parents in my neighborhood (Inwood, the one where this incident occurred) still believe in Stranger Danger, and that dark skin men playing in chess in a playground must be molesters, criminals, ex-con, or worse: unemployed.

    We need an intervention, Upper Manhattan.

    The silent majority needs to educated and overthrow the much more vocal, fear-mongering minority.

  70. manhattanspeak November 20, 2010 at 11:52 pm #

    ** apologies for typos – my toddler twins felt so strongly about our independent, and confident, free-range parenting, they hit enter before my edit. **

    here is my open letter to the parents in our “chess playing” community:


    and follow up:


  71. Angel Elf November 21, 2010 at 12:33 am #

    This is just a case of discrimination against single or married people that don’t have children. My taxes pay for these parks but I am prohibited from using them just because I have no children. Why not partition the parks? Have a section for adults where children are not allowed? This law should be struck down.

  72. manhattanspeak November 21, 2010 at 12:36 am #

    This just in:

    LOVE RALLY @ Emerson Playground, today 1pm
    207 Street and Seaman Avenue
    New York, NY 10034

    on facebook:

  73. Staceyjw November 21, 2010 at 5:57 am #

    You must be white and middle to upper class. Police are NOT helpful, polite, sensible or even ethical when it comes to minorities (esp blacks)- even when the minority hasn’t done anything or is being respectful! While all are not like this, I have seen it, and the reprucussions of racist policing, more times than I can countm
    Of course, police are nice to me, I’m a professional white woman!

  74. anon November 21, 2010 at 7:57 am #

    Sgt Mom — wow, what a compassionate and considerate response. i guess i should’ve just walked away from the rapist who got me a few years later, too. oh wait, that’s right: i *did* just walk away from these situations, because back then people didn’t talk much about these things. and yeah, i’m scarred for life.

  75. SgtMom November 21, 2010 at 10:00 am #

    Dear Anon,

    “Back then”, it’s true. People didn’t talk AT ALL about “these things”. I know. I grew up “back then”.

    I was sexually molested by a stranger in a park.

    I’m not scarred for life. I don’t support banning adults from parks. I don’t fear or hate men and I don’t blame all black people for the wrong doing of one.

    I don’t think the incessant chattering, witch hunting and emotionally crippling victim glorification that now exists in our society since those times is an improvement. I think it’s a detriment. I don’t buy into victimhood worship.

    Sorry it that’s not a compassionate or considerate response.

    I’m a strong, resilient, kick ass kind of gal. Shaming and blaming is wasted on me. I refuse to partake.

    That alright with you?

  76. 160BlocksFromTiffanys November 22, 2010 at 12:59 pm #

    Wow, lot of peanut gallery comments here. There are many more layers to this media fracas than you might realize, and believe me chess had absolutely nothing to do with anything except that it made for irresistable headlines. The playground is ancient, probably original from when Robert Moses built it. The chess tables are inside the 6′ tall locked fence that defines the “playground”, one of three in this enormous park, a park that draws from a huge area where you don’t recognize everyone you see. This is not some local village green. And yes, New York playgrounds do have fences around them, and you can argue that those are either relics from the bad old days or still useful to prevent vandalism (from teenagers mostly). But certainly the chess tables are in the playgrounds, not the larger park, and should have been moved long ago. The rules are also overreaching, but in New York we have a lot of that stuff to give the cops the ability to ticket for minor offenses that might lead to larger ones (broken windows theory). For example, it’s illegal to jaywalk in New York but you won’t get ticketed unless the cops want to stop you for some other reason that they can’t quite get you on. Obviously in this case the cops exercised terrible judgement and should have issued a warning at most; no one knows why they were so aggressive. It wasn’t because of chess per se, but it might have been because they were lazy / had a quota / were under pressure to do something to clean up the park, and at midday the muggers and dealers were in short supply. So, they ticketed the first scruffy group they saw that was doing something remotely against park rules. Again, oops, bad judgement, but I’m glad they were at least out of the cars and sweeping the park as we have had real quality-of-life crime issues lately. If you don’t know, Inwood is its own neighborhood, quite separate geographically and in many other ways from the rest of Manhattan, but it is policed and governed from institutions located 50 blocks away in Washington Heights. So locals have been pressing for more action, and it seems this was the well-intentioned but Keystone Cops result. Many local parents/residents like myself are not nearly as radical as the small group of parents connected to the chess players, and we would like to tone down the anti-cop talk because we would do not want to scare them away from ever doing proper police work in Inwood. In short, the whole misadventure is surely regretted by all involved, has given the neighborhood a black eye, and really should have blown over but for the sheer chessiness of it all.

  77. Zaida November 22, 2010 at 8:13 pm #

    “Many local parents/residents like myself are not nearly as radical as the small group of parents connected to the chess players,:”

    There is nothing radical with wanting our Inwood and NYC playgrounds to be available to other adults besides those with kids. Under these rules, I would be be unable to invite a girlfriend for coffee while my kids play, or a visiting cousin, or even their grandparent. It is the rule that needs to be changed, not the chess tables removed.

  78. Jules November 22, 2010 at 11:10 pm #

    Remember going on a date and having a picnic in the park and then having your boyfriend push you on the swings? I guess you can’t have those dates anymore until you have kids. 🙁

  79. Stephen November 23, 2010 at 5:01 am #

    my two cents (not that it really matters, but heck, its 4pm and i still have another hour at this desk):

    1 – obviously chess tables should be outside the playground. Hopefully the parks dept will get that, and move them. lesson learned.

    2 – if pedophiles are the main concern here, then why are we not up in arms about the playground being across the street from an institution that promotes, covers and enables child rape? maybe we should pick our battles.

  80. 160BlocksFromTiffanys November 23, 2010 at 6:32 am #

    Zaida – sorry, I should have clarified. I didn’t mean radical in terms of viewpoint as much as in terms of tone. I don’t think the mass emails to the newsgroups and the major media was such a great idea, since as comments here and elsewhere show this incident has been blown all out of proportion every time it gets reported. Instead of being resolved at a local level it is now internet fodder. You may think you are embarrassing the cops, but you are really hurting your neighbors by all the ensuing talk of pedophiles, crime, parks non-parents can’t enter, etc. New York is a city made up mostly of people who come from elsewhere, and the next time some nice couple is researching moving to Inwood they might come across these news stories and say “maybe not”. I do not think rallies, tv interviews, etc. are being helpful — deal with this at the Community Board level.

    Jules — you paint a lovely picture. In many cities this is still possible. However, the worry is not so much pedophiles as vandalism. NYC is a big town with quite a few not very nice people and I do not want to see expensive tax-funded equipment anywhere in the city damaged and defaced. It’s a shame but I don’t mind the rules so long as this city still has widespread issues wtih graffiti, etc.

    Stephen – pedophiles have never been the main concern nor the reason why the guys were arrested. This was just a low-level crime sweep gone wrong. I am a parent of two and have zero concerns about pedophiles in my neighborhood, including the church, the playground, the subway, etc. It’s a great place to live.

  81. manhattanspeak November 23, 2010 at 8:24 am #

    ” this incident has been blown all out of proportion”

    the only 2 things that ive seen blown out of proportion is the fact that someone in our neighborhood called 911 on a bunch of chess players to begin with, and more than a few parents in our neighborhood believe these men could have been harmful. now that’s embarrassing.

    major media picked up this ridiculous story because it was reported on DNAinfo… which was only written because it actually happened. if the gentlemen were issued a warning because the 34 had to enforce a silly park rule, we would not be debating this here, now.

    agree to disagree, and moving on.


  82. 160BlocksFromTiffanys November 23, 2010 at 11:57 am #

    Zaida, you and I both know that DNAinfo only reported because their WaHI reporter is a member of InwoodKids, and the group of parents upset about the arrest decided to make a big long winded plea on that Yahoo newsgroup asking other parents for their support, and the reporter then wrote a story based on the email. Agree to disagree on how to best handle the cops’ overzealous behavior, but I doubt that the cat will return willfully to the bag.

  83. Jen Mueller November 23, 2010 at 10:20 pm #

    Sounds like entrapment to me: “on the stone chess tables close to a playground” Who installed the tables?

  84. 160BlocksFromTiffanys November 24, 2010 at 11:37 am #

    Jen, the tables are decades old. They are also inside the playground, not “close to it”. The playground is more or less original from the 1930s in terms of its layout and long overdue for a makeover. It was a design conflict bound to happen sooner or later.

  85. anon December 3, 2010 at 3:00 am #

    @sgtmom “That alright with you?”

    uh, yeah, it is. defensive much? i never intimated that you shouldn’t be unshamable and kick-ass and all those things it’s apparently so important to you to brag about.

    nor did i say people ought not play chess in a park.

    i simply told my own story: i was 13, someone used the ruse of teaching me to play chess in a public place where a lot of chess was played as a way to interact with me while jacking off.

    none of your bluster will change that fact.

  86. Holly January 16, 2011 at 1:33 am #

    Regardless of whether people are playing chess or simply enjoying watching children at play, this is wrong. My elderly mother-in-law loved for us to take her to the park where she could sit in her wheelchair and watch children at play. Under these rules that would be criminal activity. Surely people (including the police) can tell the difference between benign and suspicious activity. This falls into the same category as “zero tolerance” at schools. It’s authorities taking the easy way out in dealing with trouble makers.

  87. 160BlocksFromTiffanys January 18, 2011 at 5:38 am #

    Holly, your mother in law would have been there with the grandkids so it would not have been an issue – the regulation is against adults unaccompanied by children.

    Even if she went on her own to watch some other children play police can tell the difference between benign and suspicious and likely would not have ticketed her.

    But quickly judging who is good and who is bad gets a little harder for the police when they see a group of older men in the playground by themselves, one of whom has a less than polished appearance because he lives permanently on the a bench in a subway station. (Why he got a ticket for chess and not living in the subway tells you something about New York’s messed up priorities). How do you untangle that mess of profiling easily? Ticketing was too much, yes, but they clearly were just trying to clean the place up.

    So the update is that the case ended up being thrown out on a technicality. So now everyone is displeased whether they were mad at the cops for arresting the men or mad at those who were mad at the cops for discouraging aggressive policing. Meanwhile several muggings by teenagers have occurred in the last month on the block near the playground – because the cops are staying away from an area that criticizes their every move, or because the cops are focusing on the wrong people, or because of nothing related to playgrounds and cops at all…. it’s not as simple as knight-takes-pawn, is it?

    How do you best police an area that values its liberal sensibilities but is preyed on by nearby criminals who don’t seem to go away easily?

  88. Unpleased February 23, 2011 at 12:44 pm #

    So I was just arrested for entering the 34th precinct and asking a question. Long story short the officer stated the I disrespected him. There is no justice!!!!
    Our rights have been demolished, because of high levels of crimes we are all guilty before we can prove our innocence!


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