Thursday, November 18th 2010, 4:00 AM
Cops in the 34th Precinct hit seven men with violations on Oct. 20 for using the stone chess tables inside a playground at Inwood Hill Park.
The playground is off-limits to adults without minors with them under Parks Department rules.
The summonses – first reported on DNAinfo.com – cited the men for failing to obey park regulation signs. They have to answer the charges in Criminal Court on Dec. 28.
“When people are just playing chess, I don’t see a real reason for a summons for that,” said Joanna Johnston, whose 7-year-old son learned the game from the men.
“A warning would have been sufficient.”
She wrote a letter to Mayor Bloomberg and the commander of the 34th Precinct protesting the tickets.
“My larger complaint is really with the attention put on this,” she said Wednesday. “A mother was just mugged last Wednesday strolling her carriage through the park. The priorities are skewed.”
Parents said the men had routinely gathered at the park to play chess since the start of the summer, but that changed last month.
“The police rolled up on us like we were drug dealers,” said Yacahudah Harrison, 49, one of seven who received summonses.
Harrison – a homeless man who was arrested in 1991 for assault and child endangerment but pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor – said he and the other players showed kids how to play the game on Saturdays.
“If we were teaching them to pitch pennies and gamble, that’s one thing,” Harrison said. “But this is chess. We weren’t trying to add to the problem.”
The NYPD told said its officers were responding to complaints from the community about the park.
“No one is saying these guys are up to no good, but it has been a precinct concern for a while,” an NYPD spokesman said.
Parents maintained the chess group isn’t checkered.
“They were never rowdy or disrespectful,” said Nicole Santiago, 24, who regularly brings her child to the park. “I don’t see what the problem is.”
Gail Mohammed, a 48-year-old mother of three, pointed out that the only two chess tables in the park were in the kids’ area.
“Who are these tables for then?” she asked. “Small kids can’t play chess. If they don’t want adults to use them, they should move them somewhere else.”