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Queens Parkgoers Being Kept In The Dark

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- At night, runners and walkers enjoy well-lit roads and paths in Forest Park. But as CBS 2's Hazel Sanchez reported, a step in the same busy Woodhaven, Queens, park during the early morning hours is a step into dangerous darkness.

Ed Wendell, who lives nearby, recorded video from inside the park around 6 a.m. one day. In the video, his footsteps can be heard but he can't be seen until he's about a foot away from the camera and turns on his flashlight.

"When people are coming out to walk their dogs, when people are coming out to start their day, all of a sudden, we were in pitch blackness," he said.

Park Darkness
A wanted sign is seen in Forest Park, where several sexual assaults have been reported since 2011. (credit: Hazel Sanchez/CBS 2)

"The fear factor has been exacerbated by the recent spate of rapes and attacks in the park," added Woodhaven resident Lori Diamond.

Police believe one man is responsible for six sexual assaults since 2011. In the last two attacks in August and March, the suspect used an electric stun gun to knock his victims to the ground, police said.

For more than four years, Bonnie Harper and her running partner have been calling 311, the city's Parks Department and other city agencies to complain about the park's lighting problem, but nothing has changed.

"It's light when we've entered the park, and you're running for just a couple of minutes, and then all of a sudden, it's just black," Harper said.

The city's Department of Transportation said it "continues to inspect the lighting in Forest Park and has found it to be in working order during seasonally appropriate hours." The DOT added, however, it is still trying to address the community's request for better lighting in the park and is in discussions with the Parks Departments and other city agencies.

"You would think this would be a simple thing to address," Harper said. "Just simply turn the lights on.

"There should be a greater sense of urgency to get this problem fixed," Wendell said. "It should have been fixed years ago."

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