Reporting Kathryn Brown
NEW YORK (1010 WINS/CBS 2) — There are thousands of chess tables in New York City parks and it turns out that playing on them can be illegal depending on where they are.
This is what a group of seven Upper Manhattan men learned last month.
It appears that the Inwood Hill Seven have become pawns after being issued summonses for playing chess in the neighborhood park.
The issue is the stone chess tables are in the Emerson Playground which has a warning sign stating “No Adults Without Children.”
Juan Torres and his friends have been playing chess at the tables for years. “Some of us are chess masters,” he said. “Saturdays and Sundays there are about 20 players here and we never have any complaint.”
On Oct 20. police busted up their chess game, storming in with bullet-proof vests, handing the seven players each a ticket for disobeying the park rules.
“Some of us got very outraged because there are so many things; there are a lot of assaults and robberies around and instead of checking them they’re checking this,” Torres said.
Some parents and residents who use the park are mounting a vigorous defense saying that the men teach neighborhood kids how to play the game.
“If they’re in there teaching a child to play chess aren’t they accompanied by a child?” one man told 1010 WINS’ Terry Sheridan.
“That’s ridiculous, it’s chess, it’s educational, give me a break,” one woman said. “They need better things to do with their time.”
“I think the cops should fight real crime,” one man said.
Some parents are blaming the city for creating this situation by putting the chess tables inside a playground.
“Parents don’t use those chess tables, they’re watching their children so it just doesn’t make sense to have them in there,” Jill Ashley, an Inwood resident, told CBS 2 HD.
“We always thoguht it was kind of odd that they had the setup like that where men without children were hanging out in a playground,” Justin Ashley said.
CBS 2 reports some of the chess players are homeless and some parents said they’ve seen them nap in the park and bathe in the water fountain.
“It’s hard to tell who they are sitting in that playground,” Keith Ludwiczak, an Inwood resident, said. “Are they chess players or are they someone waiting for children?”
The 34th precinct commander told DNAInfo, a local blog, that he defends the tickets because the law is the law and the Parks Department defends its placement of the chess tables.
The men are due in court on Dec. 28.
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