Tompkins Square Park Chess Table Arrest Was for Another Crime Entirely

Yesterday, Gothamist brought us the story posted on the blog Neither More Nor Less of Lisa, a woman who claimed she was arrested for sitting at a Tompkins Square Park chess table without playing chess, allegedly in violation of a sign that states, "These tables are for chess and checkers only." Not, it seems, a big deal -- is this really a police concern? NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Public Information Paul Browne cleared the matter up for us.

He wrote in an email:

She was arrested on an outstanding larceny warrant for stealing a woman's handbag in Gramercy Park, not for park rule violations. She was also wanted on six other outstanding warrants in for theft of services in Manhattan and Queens.

He added later that the woman, Lisa, has a court appearance scheduled for June 23.

So, mystery solved. That said, Browne said in a follow-up email that "park rules may make it a summonsable violation" to sit at those tables for a purpose other than playing chess or checkers, but reiterated that the woman in question was arrested for outstanding warrants.

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that commisioner is lying.  that is bullsh*t.  check out NMNL for the real deal.  and protest the draconian police state we are entering before it becomes too late!!!


I just want to follow-up because it probably seems like I'm totally incapable of reading - your article contains the phrase "was arrested for outstanding warrants" twice. But that statement is still somewhat consistent with the scenario I described, e.g. police thought she might have warrants and later determined it was definitely true. I would still like clarification on exactly when the woman's identity was ascertained and when it was determined that she definitely had outstanding warrants, assuming you have that information. Thanks again. I really do appreciate this follow-up story.


I'm still a little confused about this. The Gothamist/NMoL articles were a little misleading because the titles implied that she was held the whole time just for sitting at the tables, rather than the table violation plus the warrants. But, the actual allegation in the text was that the officers didn't know about her warrants until she had already been in holding for 8 or 9 hours - basically that an officer guessed based on her appearance that she might have outstanding warrants, and picked her up and held her in jail so that they could check at their leisure, taking their own sweet time about it once they had her. I know, from sitting in at Night Court sessions (open to the public! 100 Centre Street!) that stuff like this happens - kids get arrested for things like having their bag on a subway seat or walking between subway cars so that they can be checked for warrants, and sometimes they have some, and sometimes they don't have any, and are simply let go after being held in jail for several hours. 

The issue (in my opinion) is that there are many "minor violations" rules that are enforced in a discriminatory manner, resulting in e.g. a white NYU student safely hanging out at a TSP chess table with pot in his pocket while a poor-looking black or Hispanic guy is much more likely to get searched and caught. Discriminatory enforcement is a subtle but chronic issue, possibly as significant in its effects as the more obvious issues of discriminatory false conviction.

So basically, I'm curious if you can clarify which non-sensationalistic pars of Lisa's story are true.  - Did the police arrest her without knowing that she had warrants? - Was she held for 8-9 hours before they told her that she had warrants? - Is this considered a long time to hold a person in this kind of scenario?

Thanks very much for your time. Like the other commenter, I really appreciate that you went to the trouble of getting the rest of the story. Vague/misleading outrage-provoking stories don't really help anyone.


Thanks for the follow-up!  I hate it when incredible news stories like this, involving extraordinarily puzzling circumstances, are left "as-is"....


This post appears to be journalism at its worst. Just unquestioning reporting of the words of the officials. See Bob Arihood's Neither More Nor Less update on the incident:

-- Tom

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