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A lack of park patrol is turning Juniper Valley Park into a scene of underage drinking, trash and vandalism, according to a Middle Village civic group.
Bob Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association, said shady behavior has plagued the tree lined oasis this summer — and he blames a scarcity of city Parks Enforcement Patrol officers in Queens.
“This has become a regular occurrence over the weekends,” said Holden. “The vast majority of the people who come to this park appreciate it and take care of it, but we do have pigs who come in and have no respect for the park and they are not going to change unless there is enforcement.”
Holden said he and other civic members volunteer their time to clean parts of the park, including one of the baseball fields, which the group adopted. Holden recalled one night he was cutting the grass and saw more than 20 teens in the park drinking out of telltale paper bags. He called the 104th Precinct and had the situation remedied — and he encourages others to do the same.
“It’s a beautiful park and we want people to use it, not abuse it,” he said. “We rely on volunteers and people from the community because Parks, while they do a magnificent job doing what they can, do not have enough patrol officers.”
Last month, City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) sent letters to city Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe and Queens Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski requesting more trained officers to patrol city parks.
In the letter, Vallone said he was informed there was only one PEP officer assigned to patrol all of the parkland in Queens, with the rest sent to beaches and pools. He said Parks’ seasonal aides and job training participants, while dedicated, do not have the necessary training to combat wrongdoing in the city’s greenspace.
“These workers receive little to no training, cannot make arrests or issue warrants and do not carry any law enforcement tools,” said Vallone. “PEP officers, on the other hand, are classified as peace officers, must graduate from an academy and complete various training courses in defence, CPR and first aid. They are also able to make arrests and issue warrants, and carry mace, handcuffs and a baton.”
A spokesman for the Parks Department contended all city parks are well-maintained by staff and there was no indication of increased vandalism in Middle Village.
“We work very closely with the NYPD and will continue to do so,” said the spokesman.
According to figures from the 104th Precinct’s deputy inspector, Michael Cody, in the month of August there were five arrests, 97 summonses for park curfew violations and summonses for low-level alcohol and marijuana possession.
“The Parks Department does a wonderful job and they take great pride in the parks,” Holden said. “We are looking for a PEP officer increase to take some of the burden off of the police, who are being stretched too thin.”
Holden said the baseball fields, hockey rink and bocce courts see the majority of the unsavory behavior and park-goers must sometimes clean broken beer bottles and other debris from these areas.
Bocce ball players routinely show up at the park with push brooms to clear any hazards that might compromise their game.
“If we need to clean, we clean,” said one bocce ball player. “Nobody wants to see broken glass in a park full of children.”
Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4546.
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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