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PEF pushes state for greater safety following horrific assault on member in state parking lot

By SHERRY HALBROOK

After a PEF member was brutally attacked, but not robbed, while going to her car in the state’s Albany Elk Street Lot Friday, Feb 1, PEF Region 8 Coordinator Michael Blue moved quickly to speak with city, state and other union leaders about finding ways to improve security for PEF members and others in the lots and walking in the city.

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Karen Tully, a 49-year-old senior attorney at the state Department of State, was seriously injured when she was struck in the head from behind. Tully said she started to turn to confront her attacker when she lost consciousness and crumpled to the ground.

“I served five years in the Marine Corps and I’m tough. I wanted to face him and demand to know why he struck me,” Tully said.

When she regained consciousness a few minutes later, she was lying on her side in a large pool of blood with multiple fractures and lacerations on her face and head.

“I think that when I lost consciousness, he must have stomped my face,” Tully said. “I had multiple severe facial fractures, including fractures to my maxillary sinuses, nose and orbital socket. I also had multiple facial lacerations requiring stitches and a linear fracture on the back of my skull.”

Tully said that as she tried to sit up and call for help, she saw her assailant walking out of the lot on the far side. “He just walked away and left me for dead.”

Soon other state workers entering the lot saw her and rushed to help.

“I heard someone say, ‘Get the parking service attendant.’ Her station wasn’t that far away, but she didn’t seem to have a clue about what had happened,” Tully recalled. “They have security cameras for the lot, but I’m told they don’t record.”

After being treated at the scene by emergency personnel, she was hospitalized for five days and underwent reconstructive surgery.

“I don’t know who all of the people were who came to my aid, but I wish I could thank them,” Tully said.

PEF issued a public statement following the attack urging state officials to do more to protect the safety of state employees, saying, “It is the responsibility of the state to do so.”

The state Office of General Services issued a memo to state employees in Albany advising them of steps they could take to enhance their safety, but Tully said, “I was highly offended by it” because she felt it implied she should have been able to prevent the attack.

“I saw my attacker in the lot before he came up behind me,” Tully said, “and he just looked like another state employee with a satchel going to his car. There was nothing remarkable about him and no indication that he was going to attack me. I really don’t think there was anything I could have done differently, even following all of the rules (OGS suggestions).”

Tully said she has worked for the state for 14 years, but had only just started her job at the Department of State in January after transferring from her previous position at the Office of the State Comptroller in Albany where she parked in a different lot.

“I love what I do for the state and I was so happy about my new job working at 1 Commerce Plaza. I was glad to be able to park in the Elk Street Lot behind my worksite and just across the street from it. Now I have headaches and nightmares. I know, I can never park in that lot again.”

mikeblueBlue, who is PEF co-chair of the Joint PEF-NYS Health and Safety Committee, said that after the attack OGS issued a list of safety and security improvements in response to PEF’s requests over the past year. “We made those requests because of a series of incidents that occurred in and around downtown parking lots and garages,” he said.

According to Blue, the list released by OGS in February includes such things as: increased staff presence, upgraded and improved lighting in many locations, installed additional cameras in strategic locations in East Garage, Sheridan Hollow Garage and P-Levels at the Empire State Plaza, installed “blue lights” on emergency phone boxes in the garages and at Water Street Lot, new fencing at the Liberty Lot, and improved signage overall in multiple locations.

“We are grateful the OGS has taken these steps to improve the safety and security in and around the downtown parking lots,” Blue said. “We would hope though, that in the future, they would make sure that everyone is notified of these improvements.

He also noted that unfortunately none of these improvements were enough to prevent the attack on Tully or even make the parking lot attendant aware that it was occurring.

Blue said he was encouraged by the response of Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan when he met with her about the incident.

Blue said, “Mayor Sheehan expressed shock and concern about the attack and she pledged to work with us to improve safety. The mayor and Deputy Police Chief Edward Donohue immediately assured us that they had increased their patrols around each of the downtown lots and that they would work very hard to identify and apprehend a suspect in the attack.”

Tully said police have kept her posted on their progress in investigating the attack..

“The mayor said she would also reach out to state Commissioner of General Services RoAnn Destito, with whom the city already has a working relationship in dealing with parking, traffic and other common concerns,” Blue said.

“I feel this meeting with the mayor was a really nice start for efforts to improve safety, and we appreciate her helpfulness,” Blue said.

Blue said he also got in touch with Mary Sullivan, executive vice president of the Civil Service Employees Association, who said CSEA shares PEF’s concern and will support efforts to increase safety.

“We will continue to work with the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations, the OGS, the Albany Mayor’s Office and the Albany Police Department to increase and improve safety and security in and around the downtown Albany parking areas that our members use every day,” Blue said.

“We will continue to insist that the state and the city do their very best to provide the most secure environment possible through proper lighting, security cameras, proper signage, easily accessible emergency phones and most importantly a security presence on the ground at each of the downtown lots, whether through routine patrols or through the placement of security staff at each of the lots. Our mission is to make the type of attack that happened at the Elk street parking lot a one-time incident.”

Tully said she appreciates all that the union is doing to try to improve safety and the efforts of the Albany Police to catch her assailant and prevent him from hurting any more people.

“I feel this is on the state,” she said. “It needs real security.”

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