Rene Herrera, the Parks Department manager tasked with overseeing Juniper Valley Park among other Queens green spaces, was arrested on Sunday and charged with three counts of sexual abuse of an underage victim under 13 years old.
The 57-year-old Woodhaven resident was cuffed at his home for allegedly sexually abusing an underage female relative, according to police. The first reported instance of abuse was Jan. 1, 2008, when the girl was 11 years old, police said.
It is unknown what prompted Herrera’s arrest or how long the abuse continued.
Herrera has been a Parks employee since 1988, according to a 2012 Juniper Berry magazine profile of him.
The married father of three has been the regional parks manager within the confines of community boards 5, 6 and 9 with the exception of Forest Park since 2002.
A Parks spokesman confirmed to the Chronicle in an email that Herrera has been suspended without pay.
Juniper Park Civic Association President Bob Holden informed the Chronicle of his surprise in an email.
“The JPCA regularly worked with him. I found him to be a hard worker who was committed to improving the area’s parks,” Holden said. “He got along with most, if not all of the volunteers in Juniper Valley Park. I’ve known him for about four years and I don’t believe anyone saw this coming. He always came across as a gentleman.”
In the Juniper Berry profile, written by JPCA member Lorraine Sciulli, Herrera is described as “a personable, likable guy and determined to be helpful.”
“In my dealings with him I have always found him to be professional and efficient, responding very quickly if there is a problem,” the profile continued. “We are fortunate to have Rene Herrera as our Parks Regional Manager and we wish him continued success in that role.”
According to the Daily News, Herrera’s bail has been set at $5,000 cash or $10,000 bond and his next court date is Jan. 27.