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Bronx gets 17 new parks enforcement patrol officers

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With Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to hire 81 new Park Enforcement Patrol officers, Bronxites will finally get the added security they have been seeking.

Seventeen of those new officers will be added to the borough’s park patrol in the coming months, more than doubling their numbers.

The city now has 86 officers, with only 13 of them patrolling Bronx parks — the fewest number among the five boroughs while it has the largest amount of park land.

“We of course would advocate for more officers, as they provide a valuable service in ensuring that the quality of our parks are maintained,” Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.’s spokesman, John DeSio.

The Borough Board, comprised of the borough president and city council delegation, has already formally requested more PEP officers, DeSio added.

Many of the officers assigned to the Bronx patrol its larger park areas such as Pelham Bay Park and at Orchard Beach, leaving communities such as Pelham Parkway near Bronx Park East feeling forgotten.

Community Board 11 chairman Anthony Vitaliano said Bronx Park is in desperate need of more PEP officers because the community is constantly battling noise, smoke and strewn garbage left behind by barbecuers in the park.

“We really have a problem with barbecuing on Pelham Parkway,” Vitaliano said. “People come and throw huge parties in the park and leave their mess. When I heard the city was getting more PEP officers, I called Councilman Vacca to make sure we get our fair sure. There are not enough.”

Last year, after a plan to designate areas for barbecuing in Bronx Park failed to gather community support, the city Parks Department reverted back to a strict enforcement policy.

New signs were installed in Bronx Park adjacent to Bronx Park East both north and south of Pelham Parkway, alerting those using the green space that barbecuing was banned there.

Although violators risk fines ranging from $50 to $250, Vitaliano said he assumes with the nice weather rapidly approaching, there will again be a problem in the park.

“But, with more PEP officers,” he noted, “it will help.”

The addition of new officers and other new park employees may help improve the quality of Bronx parks, rated among the lowest through out the five boroughs by the advocacy group New Yorkers for Parks.

The increase in park enforcement officers comes at a significant time, with felony crimes in Crotona Park rising by 40%, with 28 incidents in 2012, compared to 20 in 2011.

Holly Leicht, executive director of New Yorkers for Parks, said she is pleased to see the added officers, as well as other new park employees.

“We think it’s great that there will be additional PEP officers. They certainly address quality of life issues in the parks,” Leicht said. “It is certainly important to keep eyes in and on the parks. But what we really see improving the look and upkeep of the parks are the additional maintenance workers.”

In total, the city’s Department of Parks & Recreation plans to hire 207 workers for park maintenance and operations.

Parks also plans to hire 96 maintenance and trades workers, technicians and analysts to maintain play equipment, boilers, fences and lighting systems, as well as 30 tree climbers and pruners to preserve the city’s investment in trees.

Kirsten Sanchez can be reach via e-mail at ksanchez@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3394

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