There’s an old saying in real estate: “location, location, location.” The same holds true for parks. There was more proof of that last week when Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered Occupy Wall Street protestors to evacuate Zuccotti Park in order to sanitize it. But in the Bronx, parks are as dirty as ever. And no one seems to care, except the people who live there.
“If Bloomberg is interested in cleaning up parks,” said resident Richard Garey, an architect, “he can start in the Bronx.”
Parks in the Bronx have long been neglected, leaving cleanup efforts to community based groups like The Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct, where Garey volunteers.
It took only 30 days of protest for the mayor to take action, announcing that protestors’ presence in Zuccotti Park “created unsanitary conditions and considerable wear and tear on the park,” and demanding that everyone leave the park in order for power cleaners to give it a good washing.
On the other end of the city, parts of Aqueduct Park in the Bronx have been unsanitary for years. “The area continues to be neglected and poses health & safety issues,” said Garey, who leads cleanups of Aqueduct Walk Park with student volunteers, “including deteriorated guardrails, broken glass, syringes, and dirty diapers.”
Aqueduct Park was founded in 1968 and runs through the Bronx and up into Westchester County. “The history of this park is rich,” said Isa Anate, 55, who lives along the aqueduct. “It follows the actual canal that provided water from the Croton River to Manhattan. “
Anate has lived in the neighborhood for 10 years. “Wouldn’t it be cool if you could play in there?” he asked a young boy playing basketball near a fenced-off section of the park.
While the kids got excited at the prospect, Anate explained that that section of the park has been closed off since he moved to the neighborhood. “It would be nice to see it put to use,” he said.
A neighborhood mother would not let her kids in the park alone. “Kids cannot play in this park,” Daisy Checo, 35, said standing near a fallen guardrail wrapped in yellow caution tape. “There is too much drug use. It would be dangerous.”
Last March, the NYC Parks and Recreation Department found the overall condition of Aqueduct Park unacceptable. While 90 percent of Manhattan parks are deemed acceptably clean, only 75.4 percent of Bronx Parks pass the test.
University Woods Park, once named “the city’s worst park” by the New Yorkers for Parks, also has a history of unsanitary conditions and overgrown vegetation.
“Nobody goes in that park,” said Celestine Tejada, 30, who lives in the neighborhood. “It’s deserted so it is probably a breeding ground for drugs and prostitution.” She went on to say if the city were to clean it up, maybe she would take her daughter there.
In the end, protestors at Zuccotti Park were allowed to remain in the park.
The mayor may still force protestors to leave, but if he’s really interested in clean parks, people in the Bronx think their borough should be first in line for a good cleaning.