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Attention Turns to Barnhart Park Safety after Teen is Murdered

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November 1, 2015

| by Elaine Marranzano |

Hudson Independent news - Barnhart Park - Sleepy Hollow, NY
Barnhart Park in Sleepy Hollow has long been a teen
hang-out, according to residents.
—Photo by Sunny McLean

A war of words between two teenagers culminated on October 9 with the stabbing death of 17-year-old Tahj Robinson in Sleepy Hollow’s Barnhart Park. Berinzon Moronta, 16, was quickly arrested and charged with second-degree murder.

According to reports, the boys had an ongoing disagreement about a female, and it was well-known they were planning to fight in the
park that Friday night where a crowd of peers had gathered in anticipation. No one alerted police. Villagers say the newly renovated Barnhardt Park, a busy and well-equipped park, has long been a teenage hang-out.

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“When I was a kid, we were in and out of that park playing at 10 o’clock at night without a problem,” said Rene Hernandez, who has lived adjacent to the park for 40 years.

But Hernandez, along with about 30 other residents who attended a Board of Trustees’ meeting four days after the stabbing, said they have grown increasingly concerned. “Now, I won’t even let my 14-year-old walk my dog at dusk,” he said.

Like all Sleepy Hollow parks, Barnhart officially closes at dusk and has posted rules against loud music and drinking. Enforcement of the rules falls to the police. Just hours before Robinson was fatally stabbed, Sleepy Hollow police made a drug arrest inside the park. “Our police make regular patrols, including foot patrols, in our parks,” said Mayor Ken Wray. “But we need all of you to be our eyes and ears. We need you to call us.”

Over the past 24 months, the police department received 28 calls related to Barnhart Park. “Most of those were made by the police themselves or by our public works employees reporting vandalism. Only five or six of those related to alcohol or marijuana,” Wray said. “I’ve made numerous calls to the police regarding our youth drinking, the commotion and fighting in the streets, public intoxication, the hanging-out in the parks after dark,” said Maria Negron. “Far too often police have turned a blind eye.”

Police Chief Greg Camp declined to be interviewed for this article, providing instead a written statement in which he said the inci-dent has “saddened and shocked” the community. Some residents implored the village to provide more activities for teenagers, while others asked, “Where are the parents?” Many urged the village to hire a youth police officer, something the village is considering.

“We are talking with the high school to work out the details and function of a youth officer,” said Wray, but ruled out the idea of fencing the parks. “We are not going to turn this into a ‘police state.’“

There have been at least six murders in Sleepy Hollow since 1998 with Robinson being the youngest victim. Residents reacted with an outpouring of emotion, contributing money for Robinson’s funeral, holding a march and a vigil and flooding the 10591 Facebook page with solution oriented comments.

“Let this be a sad reminder that in addition to laying to rest a vibrant young man, we must look to ourselves to do better and be better,” said Alberta Jarane. “Th is is a community that came out to protect our children. I hope to see all of you at more meetings. We are the reason this village can change.”

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