Having Charles Park Beach so close to her house was a major selling point when Debra Ann DiMeglio moved to Howard Beach in January.
But all wasn’t as it seemed. She quickly became disappointed to see how many people were throwing their garbage on the beach and its surrounding park — a longtime problem in the area, according to residents.
“It’s just terrible what’s going on there,” DiMeglio said. “It doesn’t give a good face to the community.”
Now, she and her sister are on a mission to get the National Parks Service to improve the maintenance of the federal parkland — and their cries are backed by close to 250 people who so far have signed onto a petition in want of a cleaner park.
“The whole park needs to be cleaned up. This should not be,” DiMeglio said.
In an online petition at Change.org, DiMeglio and her sister Sheri say Charles Park, located at 9600 165 Ave., “was once a beautiful park, where residents would enjoy their visits and the beautiful view.”
They couldn’t say the same for today.
“The beaches are horrendous,” DiMeglio said. “When I walk around I’m seeing all the debris and dirt and people barbecuing. There’s barbecue charcoal everywhere.”
She’s not alone in that assessment.
“The park looks like a junkyard,” Steven Sirgiovanni said. “I wouldn’t want to have a kid or a dog going in there.”
The DiMeglio sisters on Sunday hosted a petition drive outside Charles Park, where about 250 people signed onto it, according to DiMeglio. At press time, the Change.org petition had 255 signatures.
“We want to get as many signatures as possible to say, look, this community is on board with this,” Debra DiMeglio said.
But it seemed as if the petition drive wasn’t enough to persuade some people to take better care of the park.
DiMeglio said as her petition drive was winding down in the afternoon hours, people started gathering around the beach and setting up barbecues.
An NPS spokeswoman said in an email that the agency “has worked diligently over the years to keep Frank Charles Park, as well as the rest of the park, clean and attractive for our public,” referring to Gateway National Recreation Area, which Charles Park is a part of.
“The National Park Service worked with various groups to maintain Frank Charles Park for the public this past spring and summer,” including teaming up with Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Rockaway Park) and the X Bay softball team to help clean up one of the baseball fields there.
The spokeswoman encouraged all those interested in the maintenance of Charles Park to contact their volunteer coordinator, Keith White at Keith_White@nps.gov.
“Working together we can keep Frank Charles Park another great place at Gateway,” the spokeswoman added.
Debra DiMeglio said she’s going to “stay on top of NPS” to make sure it does what is needed for the park.
“We’re passionate about it,” she said. “We’re going to make a difference.”