By Kevin Deutsch and Sasha Gonzales
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Bronx elected officials Monday denounced the nooses discovered in Van Cortlandt Park last week, calling on law enforcement to “thoroughly” investigate the incident and treat it “with the seriousness that it demands.”
“Our beloved park has always been a home for our community to promote love and acceptance, most recently serving as the site of peaceful protests against racial violence,” Councilman Andrew Cohen, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, and Congressman Eliot Engel said in a joint statement. “The location where the rope was found is a common gathering site for family parties, and we cannot allow it to be taken over by fear and racism.”
Two Bronx men said they spotted the nooses hanging from trees on the east side of the park about 9:30 p.m. Thursday, near the 242nd Street entrance, hours before the official commemoration of Juneteenth, authorities said.
The witnesses, Rafael Pena and Alexandra Haridopolos, said they reported the nooses to police with the NYPD’s nearby 50th Precinct. Officers quickly deemed the incident non-criminal and the nooses mere nylon strings—not symbols of racist hate against African-Americans.
Asked about the incident on Friday, an NYPD spokesperson initially said there was no record of a police report, according to Gothamist, which first reported on the nooses.
The news site said an NYPD spokesman, Sgt. Vincent Marchese, reported that “a commanding officer believed the apparent nooses were actually ‘a nylon type string to hold a piñata.’ He noted they were found in a popular part of the park ‘where people have gatherings and parties.’”
The witnesses said the NYPD’s explanation doesn’t jibe.
“It’s clear what this is,” Haridopolos told Gothamist, referencing the nooses. “Someone knew what they were doing.”
The joint statement from Cohen, Dinowitz, and Engel said hatred and racism must be condemned locally.
“Regardless of whether the rope that was left in the park was intended to be a hateful symbol, we unequivocally denounce hatred and intimidation in all forms,” their statement said.
The men added: “This incident must be thoroughly investigated and treated with the seriousness that it demands, and our community should remain vigilant against future incidents that sow fear in our neighbors.”