Thursday, November 12, 2009

Forest Park and the homeless

Today, I completed what has now become an annual inspection of the woods around the area of Strack Pond. I am pleased to announce that the combination of persistent response to  problem areas and, now that the understory has shed its leaves and the poison ivy has subsided, the cleaning of remote sections has produced a clean segment of the park here on the corner of Woodhaven Boulevard and Forest Park Drive. Just two years ago, when I first began this work this same slice of the park was described as heavily trashed. Without the assistance of Forest Park's administrative and management personnel and its Urban Ranger office, this work could not have been accomplished. I thank all of them for their support of my efforts, their taking the time to patiently listen to my gripes, and their timely and continued response to my calls for assistance.

As a daily visitor to the park, I collect what must be years of the repeated use of the park by it's night time visitors. Judging only by the empircal evidence I collect, I have reached some startling truths that reflect a lot on us as citizens, as parents, as a city and ultimately as a society. By day, Forest Park is a serene place of beauty, at night, it does business as a place to get drunk and smoke, a place to have sex, and a place to stay over if you are homeless. All of that activity leaves litter. I've written a lot about the smoking and drinking before. Parents, wake up!! By the way, a special thank you to President Obama for banning those flavored blunts. That is the preferred way of smoking pot in Woodhaven. The way I look at it, one less thing I have to pick up of these kids.

I'm pretty sure that the park is frequently used by homeless men. What does that say about us, that staying overnight in a city park is a more attractive alternative to a city shelter. It seems evident that these encampments I have discovered in the past year also involve a lot of alcohol consumption. That's depressing. I don't like throwing away someone's clothes or sleeping bags. I always try to signal that I'm in a little hideaway by scrubbing the area of cans and debris before I bag clothes or blankets. Since I've started, I've seen evidence of  about seven or eight homeless locations on the Woodhaven side of the park. That's too many.

Forest Park was once part of a beautiful 1895 plan to have a continuous green belt ranging from Prospect Park in Brooklyn and culminating with Forest Park. It is a beautiful heritage of our city, and a treasure to the neighborhoods surrounding it. As a senior and a member of the Flower Child generation that would fix the world, I can't let it be passed on to the next generation sullied by our neglect, by our failure as parents and teachers and  citizens. I won't let that happen between Woodhaven Boulevard and the Carriage Walk, anyway. Pick it up, folks.

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