The New York City Parks department is investigating allegations that a worker was made to clean dog feces off of a park visitor’s shoes.
The woman, Tasheema Chatman, told the NBC 4 New York I-Team in an emotional interview that she felt humiliated and degraded by the Oct. 2 incident at Carl Schurz Park on the Upper East Side.
Chatman said she was working her regular job that day, which consists of picking up garbage, branches, leaves, and cleaning up after dog owners who neglect to curb their pets.
There was an art fair taking place on the sidewalk at East End Avenue and all park workers were told about the importance of keeping the streets tidy.
"My supervisor called me over to 86th and East End,” recalled Chatman. “He said there was poop at that corner.”
But when she arrived, she didn’t see anything on the ground, just her two male supervisors and a man who was a visiting artist, showing at the art fair.
“I didn’t see anything on the ground and the artist suddenly says ‘There’s poop on my shoe, can you help me?’”
Stunned, Chatman looked over to her supervisors for guidance, but they didn’t say anything and she said they just stared at her.
"So I scrubbed his shoe, my supervisor didn’t say anything," she said. "His supervisor just stood there. I had to walk away."
Chatman said she was humiliated and degraded on the sidewalk, scrubbing away at the man's shoe while her two supervisors stood and watched. She said one of them even laughed.
"After I did it and he smiled. And I shook my head no, I'm not laughing. I didn't find it funny," she said.
When the I-Team reached out to the NYC Parks Department for comment and while they did not address the allegations directly, they said they’ve interviewed all parties involved and now the NYC Parks Advocate is investigating.
Chatman, a single mother of two children, said she felt like she had no choice but to do it even though it's not in her job description to clean shoes.
"I have to take care of my two kids and I can’t afford to lose this job,” said Chatman. “I felt like when my supervisors called me there, it was a direct order and if I didn’t do it, I would probably get written up.”
Geoffrey Croft of NYC Park Advocates was first alerted to Chatman's case.
"The parks department needs to be reformed top to bottom, and that’s racial sensitivity and its sexual harassment," said Croft. "And we’ve been calling for that for years and this administration certainly doesn’t feel like this is a priority."
Meanwhile, Chatman requested to be moved to a different park, which the city granted. She hopes that by telling her story, she can prevent others from suffering the same -- while still trying to understand-- why her?
"Was it because of my race? And they look down on black people? Or because... they don’t respect [women] and they feel like we’re below and they’re above women? I am still battling that myself."
The I-Team made repeated attempts to talk with the artist, but he has not returned calls or emails. Attempts to reach the supervisors at their jobs were also unsuccessful, as the I-Team was told they were not working Thursday.