Parents who bring their young children to Astoria Heights Playground want something done about the broken glass, drugs, off-leash dogs and outdated play equipment and a slew of other issues that plague the small park.
“I found a bag of heroin two days ago,” said Brad Lunsford, parent of a 2-year-old and a 5-year-old. “There was also a man sleeping in a bathroom with his pants around his ankles.”
Additionally, Lunsford said he often sees dogs off their leashes, which is a safety concern for his young children.
“My son blew up a condom like a balloon,” parent Mara Smith said.
About 15 members of a new group called Friends of Astoria Heights Playground flooded the Community Board 1 meeting on Tuesday night asking for change.
They brought a bucket of broken beer bottles and other glass pieces they had collected from the playground on 45th Street between 30th and 31st avenues. They said the lifeguards at the small above-ground pool go beyond their job description picking up trash, but now the pool is closed for the season.
The Parks Department said Parks Enforcement patrols and the police patrol the park after hours and that it cleans it at least five times a week, according to the agency.
The Friends of Astoria Heights Playground hope to organize a trash pickup team similar to the one at Sean’s Place, on 38th Street between 31st Avenue and Broadway, which faced many of the same problems. A friends group unofficially adopted that park and has been slowly improving it.
Parents at the meeting said beyond the crime, the park needs some TLC. The equipment is outdated, parent Lea Kotte said, adding that she’s hesitant to sit her 6-month-old on it. Volunteers with Connection Church Astoria want to paint the equipment, but community pastor Larry Mayberry said it’s been hard to get permission.
In the past they have painted the fence, benches and trash cans, and every two months the crew shovels eroded dirt from the steep hill on the south side of the park back onto the hill.
“It’s temporary, but it helps for a month,” Mayberry said.
The church has the funds and the crew to build a retaining wall as a permanent fix to the eroding hill, but was told by the Parks Department that they did not have the staff to supervise such a project.
CB 1 does not have the authority to allocate money for repairs, but they can be a powerful voice advocating for changes.
Next month the board will prioritize a list of requests that they would like to see accomplished in the neighborhood and then will send it to the city for consideration.
Last year the park was No. 20 on that list of 34 priorities, District Manager Lucille Hartmann said.
“I think it will move up this year,” Hartmann said. “We have nothing to do with money, but things get done with making your wishes known.”