By Kevin Deutsch and Sasha Gonzales
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Two Bronx men said they discovered nooses hanging in trees in Van Cortlandt Park Thursday night, 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.
The pair spotted the nooses hanging from trees on the east side of the park about 9:30 p.m., near the 242nd Street entrance, authorities said.
“I looked up and saw a noose hanging,” Haridopolos told Gothamist, which first reported the incident. “It felt like it was meant to be seen. The other two were right by a walkway, in very good lighting.”
“It felt like a message, especially with Juneteenth being today.”
Asked about the incident on Friday, an NYPD spokesperson initially said there was no record of a police report, according to Gothamist.
The news site reported that an NYPD spokesman, Sgt. Vincent Marchese, later said “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 said of the nooses. “Someone knew what they were doing.”