May 7, By Christian Murray
Several residents went to a meeting in Long Island City Tuesday to express their concerns about quality-of-life issues that they say are negatively affecting the enjoyment of the waterfront parks.
The meeting, hosted by the Hunters Point Parks Conservancy in tandem with the Hunters Point Civic Association, provided the nearly 50 attendees with an opportunity to ask city and state officials—as well as the owner of LIC Landing—what is being done to combat litter, wayward dogs, pot-smoking teenagers and the increased number of food venders who are allegedly clogging up Center Boulevard by the parks.
Residents were initially given a breakdown as to who was responsible for maintaining the parks.
Frank (Turtle) Raffaele, CEO of LIC Landing/Coffeed, outlined that his company is responsible for keeping clean a large chunk of Hunters Point South Park, which includes the park area covered by wooden decking as well as the concrete areas that include his restaurant and event space.
One resident questioned Raffaele about garbage being left in the restaurant/cafe area.
“Over the weekend it is kind of abandoned in terms of garbage pickup. I don’t know if you are responsible for that—but it is in your space—usually Saturdays and Sundays and it brings rats,” the resident said. “Who is in charge of picking up the garbage over the weekend?“
Raffaelle acknowledged that it is his firm’s responsibility to clean this trash but said that LIC Landing is getting on top of the problem.
“We do have staff that monitor and empty the trash cans,” he said, but noted that earlier this year he wasn’t fully staffed since the warmer season had yet to kick in.
“The last couple of weekends we have been at full staff and so are porters and maintenance crew have been there doing a great job to get the garbage to a level it should be.”
Raffaele said that his company currently has 3 porters working who are responsible for cleaning the areas of the park his firm is responsible for. He said that he would also be adding trash receptacles.
The rest of the Hunters Point South Park is maintained by the New York City Parks Department.
Norman Chan, who manages the park on behalf of the Parks Department, said the city is responsible for cleaning the artificial turf, the grassy area adjacent to it, as well as the sand box area and playground.
He said that during the off season he has three workers in charge of cleaning the area, with the number increased to six during peak season.
He said there have been times lately when his staff numbers have been down. He said that over the Easter period two of his three workers were sick, making it difficult to keep the park clean.
He was asked whether the parks department would be adding trash cans, which he was unable to answer.
“When the park was designed it was designed with a certain number of garbage cans built in,” he said. “We are exploring ways to get them, something we are working on.”
Many of the trash problems arise overnight Chan said.
He said his workers typically work 8am- 4:30 pm shifts, which sometimes results in trash building up in the late evenings and mornings. He said that he will be modifying staff hours so they can finish later.
Residents wanted to know who was in charge of keeping an eye on the park overnight.
“People are trashing it overnight,” one resident said. “I see graffiti in the mornings, syringes on the ground…kids in the playground smashing things, smoking pot and drinking.”
Capt. Ralph Forgione, the commanding officer of the 108th Police Precinct, was at the meeting and said that his “conditions team,” which works overnight, will clamp down on the problem.
He said that he had recently received a letter from Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer outlining some of the overnight problems at Hunters Point South Park and that he would be on top of it. He told attendees: “I assure you you’ll see a difference by the next [Civic Association] meeting.”
The meeting focused very little on Gantry Plaza State Park, which is managed by the state and has separate employees to oversee it. The state has three employees working the morning shift and another three working the afternoon/evening shift who are tasked to clean and maintain it.
The park only became part of the conversation when the issue of dogs was raised.
Andrew Williams, park manager for Gantry Plaza State Park, said dogs are permitted on leashes in the plaza area in front of the Gantries as well as on piers 1 through 4. However, beyond that dogs are generally not permitted, whether they are on a leash or not.
Williams said that he is aware that many dog owners don’t obey these rules.
Meanwhile, at Hunters Point South Park, dogs are permitted on leashes throughout the park, with the exception of the synthetic turf, the playground area and the sandbox area. They are permitted on the lawn area.
One resident complained that there was not enough space for dogs to run. She said that three dog runs in the area are filled with river rocks—where dogs are prone to injury– and another is just not big enough for dogs to run.
“If you have a big dog, there is no place for the dog to actually run,” she said.
Another issue raised was the proliferation of food trucks on Center Boulevard on weekends. One resident complained that the operators of these trucks don’t have enough trash cans which is adding to the litter problem.
However, the biggest problem with the trucks is that they are illegally parked, residents said, blocking the line of vision for pedestrians crossing the street. The area of great concern was Center Boulevard and 51st Avenue.
Forgione said that he would look into the problem and residents would see results by the June meeting.