From heroin users allegedly shooting up in the Waldbaum’s parking lot in Howard Beach to heaps of trash blowing from the area outside the grocery store into nearby yards, a myriad of problems are plaguing the neighborhood, residents said, and they are pleading for change.
“There are used needles, beer bottles, plastic bags and all this other trash — it’s ridiculous,” said Neil Iovino, a Howard Beach resident who lives on 95th Street behind the Waldbaum’s parking lot. “We’re talking about heroin addicts hanging out here and leaving their needles. I have to tell my kid not to go across the street anymore because of the needles. Whoever thought I’d have to do that in this neighborhood?”
Residents said they have for years been trying to get the store to clean up its act and more quickly pick up the trash that accumulates in its parking lot, the edge of which spans a little more than half of 95th Street between 156th and 157th avenues.
Waldbaum’s manager, who wished not to be named, said he and others from the store have been working hard to mitigate the trash problem, and he said he had not been notified of the drug issue.
Iovino said that since he has been complaining in recent months, the shop has gotten better about removing trash, though he said plenty of it still blows in from the lot onto area properties, leaving numerous plastic bags stuck in trees, and even lining back staircases with garbage.
Still, residents said while the garbage has been a severe nuisance — one neighbor even cut down a tree in her yard because so much trash got caught in it so often —they are most concerned about the individuals who they said have recently begun to use drugs in the parking lot and surrounding area almost nightly.
“My son is 7 years old, and I have a newborn on the way,” said Edwin Perez, a police officer who also lives near the supermarket. “The whole reason we moved to Howard Beach two years ago is because we thought it would be a better place to live, so to find needles is really disconcerting.”
Perez also said teenagers and car service workers park on the block and “smoke a lot of weed.”
Luricilda Guglielmo, who has lived with her husband on 95th Street since 1968, said she too has noticed more people coming into the lot long after Waldbaum’s has closed.
“I see many cars going in and out of there around two to three in the morning,” Guglielmo said. “It’s not good.”
Michael Persico, another neighbor, called the situation “disgusting.”
“Our grass, forget it —there’s trash everywhere,” he said. “And a kid even stepped on a needle by the corner of the lot.”
Residents said they’ve tried to contact the 106th Precinct and Department of Sanitation about the problems, but have been blown off. The precinct did not respond to a request for comment, nor did other city officials.
The store manager who just recently began working at Waldbaum’s, said “this is the first time I’ve heard” about an issue with drug users.
“If people see illegal activity, they need to call the authorities,” the manager said. “If we witness it, we’ll call the authorities. We have camera surveillance, but I don’t know what goes on after hours.”
The employee also said he has been working hard to address concerns about the trash.
“I had a good conversation with Neil, and his complaints are somewhat valid,” the general manager, who did not want to be named, said in reference to Iovino. “We have a cleaning crew that goes out every day and cleans the perimeter of the fence and outside it, but there’s nothing I can do when there’s 35 mile per hour winds that make the trash fly around.”
To combat the drug use, residents said they’d like to see a police crackdown. As for the trash problem, neighbors said it would be a huge help if Waldbaum’s replaced the chain-link fence now lining the perimeter with a wall.
“Obviously everybody would love to see more cops on the block,” Perez said. “I’d like to see the specialized teams crack down on the drugs.”
Joe Barretta, who has lived in the neighborhood for 54 years, said he’d also like Waldbaum’s to hire overnight security to patrol the lot.
“They used to have security,” Barretta said. “Now the gates are always open, and there’s no security. There was a guy who was just taking a bath in the parking lot the other day. What’s going on there?”
Whatever happens, residents said, all they want is for someone to pay attention to them.
“I pay a lot in taxes, and this is what we get?” said Iovino. “We were so excited to buy this house eight months ago. Then, just after we bought it, we were going to have family over for Christmas. When my mother came over, she saw all the trash and was so upset. So I cleaned it up myself, on Christmas. We shouldn’t have to do this. I shouldn’t have to watch my son to make sure he doesn’t play near needles.”
Anyone with information can call (646) 539-0752.