Brooklyn Heights

Neighbors demand police presence as more needles are found in Cadman Park

September 12, 2019 Mary Frost
Kids found the syringes near this bench in Cadman Plaza Park. Eagle photo by Mary Frost
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Parents and other park-goers were appalled to hear Tuesday that park workers discovered syringes stashed in rat holes in Cadman Plaza Park on Aug. 26, just a day before children found half a dozen additional syringes discarded under the bushes. Now, they are asking for a larger police presence in the area.

They heard the news at an 84th Precinct Build the Block public safety meeting with Det. John Condon and Officer Donovan Hunt. While Condon and Hunt are not technically responsible for the park, they are the neighborhood coordination officers for Brooklyn Heights, whose families, sports teams and schools use the park on a daily basis.

The park has “an insurmountable amount of rats,” Park Manager Andrea Keys told residents meeting at St. Francis College. “When we were looking into the rat holes, we found the needles. The next day, there were more needles.”

After children discovered the syringes, parents frantically combed the weedy undergrowth and collected all needles they could find, carefully dropping them into a plastic water bottle.

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Parents collected the syringes in this plastic water bottle. Photo courtesy of Heather Prince
Parents collected the syringes in this plastic water bottle. Photo courtesy of Heather Prince

One of the parents called 311. The situation was classified by a city employee as a request to clean up “garbage or litter.”

“It’s not just a trash [or] maintenance issue because it’s dangerous, potentially deadly medical waste,” Brooklyn mom Heather Prince told the Brooklyn Eagle last week.

“We love this park and the kids love running through the bushes, but I’m afraid of some of the stuff I’ve seen lately,” she said.

Park-goers are demanding more patrols, more maintenance and more homeless outreach.

After news of the found syringes broke last week, Parks Department workers came out in force to clean up Cadman Plaza Park and clear out the undergrowth.

“All these children play there every day. Something will happen that will be irreversible,” Brooklyn Heights parent Pia Scala-Zankel told the officers. “Can we get a police presence?”

Concerned park-goers attended a 84th Precinct Build the Block public safety meeting on Tuesday about syringes and homeless in Cadman Plaza Park. Eagle photo by Mary Frost
Concerned park-goers attended a 84th Precinct Build the Block public safety meeting on Tuesday about syringes and homeless in Cadman Plaza Park. Eagle photo by Mary Frost

In response to questions from those attending the meeting, arresting a drug abuser “is up to the officer’s discretion,” Det. Condon said. “Is it a deterrent? No.”

DUMBO resident Tara Quinn told Condon and Hunt that she had filed reports about homeless individuals sleeping near the War Memorial in the park back in August.

“It fell on deaf ears for three weeks — until the needles,” she said. “If people sleep in the park, can they be removed? Can they be arrested for shooting dope? I need a solution now. I’m not hearing a short-term plan.”

Toba Potosky, president of the nonprofit Cadman Plaza Park Conservancy, said the park needs a police presence and also homeless outreach.

“We’re asking for patrolling and a lot of it. We need those cops,” he told the officers.

Potosky also asked for improved lighting. Some attendees suggested installing a strobe light, but others said that would disturb the residents that lived around the park, and proposed a motion sensor instead.

“The rats will set it off,” attendees warned.

Potosky said that the Conservancy, along with other community groups and officials, would host a walk-through in the park next week with a representative from the Mayor’s Office, “mainly about the rats.”

An old problem

Quinn and Scala-Zankel told the Eagle last week they met with City Council member Stephen Levin in 2015 with the same concerns they have today — rats, overflowing garbage cans, maintenance, derelict bathrooms and disintegrating artificial turf.

An action plan was developed, including the drastic pruning of all the bushes and a rat-baiting program. There was “vast improvement” for a while, but this did not last, they said.

Glomani Bravo-Lopez, deputy chief of staff for Levin, told the Eagle last week that Levin’s office has “relayed this information to VOCAL-NY urging the need for outreach in Cadman Park, the Korean War Memorial/Columbus Park and Borough Hall Plaza.”

Mark Gelbs, president of the 84th Precinct Community Council, reminded people that the council met the third Tuesday of every month at 7 p.m. at Borough Hall, and the topic would be a good one to bring up. “We start early and have pizza,” he said.

“Drug use, discarded needles, and a persistent presence of people sleeping [and] camping out in the park are urgent and demand an immediate and serious response,” Lara Birnback, Brooklyn Heights Association executive director, told the Eagle on Thursday.

She said BHA is working with a coalition of other neighborhood groups including the Cadman Plaza Park Conservancy and the DUMBO Neighborhood Alliance “to make progress on other park-related concerns such as rat mitigation, sanitation and improvements to the overall park experience.”

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