April 21, 2016 By Michael Florio
Community Board 1 is urging the City to bring more park safety resources into Astoria.
The Board will send a letter to the Parks Department requesting additional Parks Enforcement Patrol (PEP) officers in Astoria, increased lighting and for children’s playgrounds to be locked at night.
PEP officers work alongside the NYPD to prevent crime in parks, with the ability to write summonses and make arrests. The letter states that the Board has requested more PEP officers in the district for years.
Some Astorians were optimistic that new enforcement would finally arrive here after the City Council approved funding for 67 new PEP officers Citywide.
However, the district did not receive any new officers. The entire borough of Queens received only eight additional officers, all of whom will be stationed in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
“We need tools such as the issuance of summons and the possibility of arrest,” a draft of CB 1’s letter reads. “In order to accomplish this, we need PEP officers.”
The Board also requested that the Parks Department lock playgrounds nightly.
This request follows recent incidents where children have found human waste and drug paraphernalia at local playgrounds.
Council Member Costa Constantinides is also working towards this goal by drafting legislation that would require the Parks Department to lock these playgrounds overnight.
His work on this bill stems from frustrations over Sean’s Place, a playground located on 38th Street between 31st Avenue and Broadway, where adults have been conducting illegal and inappropriate activities during the night for years, he said.
Currently, if residents call for a playground to be locked every night, the Parks Department will ask a community member to take on the responsibility. Constantinides believes that Parks, not community members, should be responsible for locking these playgrounds overnight.
The Board agrees.
“You cannot ask that citizens’ groups be tasked with locking gates, as they have neither the responsibility nor expertise to remove unruly individuals from the playground,” the letter states.
The Board also stated a need for better lighting in parks in the neighborhood.
Community Board 1 voted overwhelmingly to send this letter to the parks department.
Their decision has been endorsed by the Old Astoria Neighborhood Association, which has also been pushing for park safety upgrades in the neighborhood.