2007-11-02 / Front Page

Nooses Found In Parks Office Anger Workers, Officials

By Howard Schwach

Two hangman's nooses, long the symbol of slavery and oppression of black people, were found wrapped around the collars of clothing in the lockers of two Parks Department supervisors when they opened their lockers at a Rockaway facility on Saturday morning, police officials say.

A police officer stands guard outside of 86-01 Shore Front Parkway, a boardwalk building where two nooses were found last Saturday. A police officer stands guard outside of 86-01 Shore Front Parkway, a boardwalk building where two nooses were found last Saturday. Kenny Clark, 43, and Michelle Rouse- Williams, 40, told police that they found the nooses inside their lockers when they reported for work at 86-01 Shore Front Parkway, a boardwalk facility, at about 9:30 a.m. on October 27.

The nooses, made of yellow rope, police say, were wrapped around the collars of the uniforms inside the lockers.

"I opened my locker and started crying," she told reporters. "I backed up and said, 'This has got to be a f-----g joke.' "

"Whoever did this should rot in hell," she said. "It cut me like a knife."

When Clark opened his locker, he reportedly found a similar rope noose wrapped around his shirt.

The two, who are the only black supervisors in the Parks Department's Rockaway Beach Maintenance and Operations Headquarters, a one story building on the boardwalk at Beach 86 Street, told reporters that the lockers are not identified with a name and that whoever planted the nooses had to know to whom the lockers belonged.

The NYPD Hate Crimes Unit, as well as detectives from the 100 Precinct Squad are investigating.

"To find something like this, particularly where you work, where you come each day to do your job, is devastating," Clark told reporters.

He added, however, that he doubts that anybody who works there committed the crime.

"We are closely knit here," he said. "We are a family."

Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe issued a statement to the press decrying the incident.

"This targeting of individuals with symbols of hate will not be tolerated," Benepe said. "This crime is being investigated by the NYPD, and we have also asked the Department of Investigation to take appropriate action. In the meantime, management will meet with the two employees who were the apparent targets of this crime, and we are offering counseling as well."

Benepe said that he could not discuss the case or provide details because it was part of an ongoing investigation.

"I don't want to compromise the NYPD investigation in any way," Benepe said.

The Rockaway incident is the latest in a line of such incidents in the tristate area recently.

Police sources declined to comment on the investigation.

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