NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A group of city officials held a rally on Monday morning as outrage grows following a rape over the weekend at Hudson River Park.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and other local leaders organized a community walk through the park starting at Harrison Place and West Street, the site of the attack.
On Saturday, 25-year-old Jonathan Stewart was arrested for beating and choking a 21-year-old woman before dragging her into the bushes at Hudson River Park and raping her, the NYPD said.
1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck reports
Stewart has been charged with rape, criminal sex act, sex abuse, assault and forcible touching, police said.
At the “Take Back The Park” rally, Quinn said this type of violence will not be tolerated.
“We are not going to yield one blade of grass, one acre of park to perpetrators who think women are going to live in fear,” Quinn said. “To anyone who thinks you can commit acts of sexual violence or any other violence against women and girls or anyone else in this city, we’re here to tell you, you cannot.”
Local residents are on edge following the attack and are calling for increased security in the area.
“This is not going to be fodder for rapists or muggers,” resident Marny May said. “This is our neighborhood and we are going to control it and take this neighborhood.”
“I was sick to my stomach but I have to say that this is what I always worried about because I don’t see security going back and forth,” resident Diane Lapsom said.
Saturday’s incident was the second sex attack in a city park in the past two weeks.
Last week, David Albert Mitchell was indicted on several charges in connection with the rape of a 73-year-old birdwatcher in Central Park.
Members of the city council have written a letter to Mayor Michael Bloomberg in an effort to prevent $100 million in mid-year NYPD budget cuts that could take some officers out of city parks.
WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb has reaction from Mayor Bloomberg
“We need to make sure we keep our patrol strength as strong as possible,” Quinn said.
“We’ve had a couple of rapes that got a lot of publicity. We’ve just got to stop that. It’s really hard to describe how despicable these kinds of crimes are and we’re doing everything we can, but we just can’t have a cop every single place,” said Bloomberg.
Alarmed over the number of reported rapes in the city, elected officials are calling on police to beef up security.
“Our objective number one is to keep the city safe and if I thought spending more money would make a difference I would but the bottom line is we only have so much money,” Bloomberg said.
So far this year, 1058 rapes have been reported in the city — up by more than 4 percent compared to this time last year and an increase of nearly 11 percent from the same time frame two years ago.
Starting in two weeks, the city will offer free self-defense classes at Central Park and Hudson River Park in light of the attacks.