Garden City To Adopt New Policies Regarding Access To Parks

New York State Attorney General Spitzer today announced that the Village of Garden City, Long Island has adopted a comprehensive policy and procedures to ensure that a local requirement limiting the use of its parks to Garden City residents is not enforced in a racially discriminatory manner.

Spitzer’s office initiated an investigation in the summer of 2004 in response to a complaint from the Long Island Office of the New York Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) charging that only blacks were being asked about their residency when using the Village’s parks. The Attorney General’s investigation confirmed that Garden City park attendants routinely question black non-residents about their residency and refuse them entry into the parks, while permitting white non-residents to enter and use the parks without questioning their residency. After learning the results of the investigation, the Village adopted the new policies.

Attorney General Spitzer said: "Enforcing park access rules in a racially discriminatory manner is illegal. These new policies will ensure that all rules are enforced fairly and equitably."

The policy adopted by the Village Board of Trustees on May 5, 2005 mandates specific procedures to prevent discriminatory practices in Garden City’s parks, among them:

  • Training of Village park employees on anti-discrimination laws and the provisions of the agreement;
  • A neutral, sign-in system for all persons using the Garden City parks;
  • A prohibition against park attendants questioning park users about their residency;
  • A requirement that the Village conduct anonymous audits of its parks to ensure equal treatment of all park users;
  • A complaint system for park users plus discipline for any park employees who engage in discriminatory practices; and
  • Extensive record keeping and guaranteed speedy access to records for review by the Office of the Attorney General.

The investigation was handled by Assistant Attorneys General Hilary B. Klein, Anne Pearson, under the supervision of Bureau Chief Dennis D. Parker and Deputy Bureau Chief Natalie R. Williams of the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau, Attorney General-in-Charge of the Nassau Office Juan Merchan and Investigator Angel Rivera of the Investigations Unit .