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Park BBQers on the hot seat

Bronx Times

Community leaders looking to bar illegal barbecuers from their parks may finally be getting some help.

A captain of the Parks Enforcement Patrol said it would be possible to send a team of officers in the near future to enforce the prohibition of barbecuing in the weekend hot-spots of Bronx Park East and Pelham Parkway.

Members of Community Board 11 have long complained about the rampant barbecuing in the parks, which they say hundreds participate in each summer weekend, singeing tree branches, leaving hot coals in the grass and creating thick plumes of smoke.

“We want people to use the park and enjoy the park,” said board member Edith Blitzer. “We don’t want it to burn down.”

Board members were finally able to air their grievances at a meeting with Parks Department officials on Wednesday, July 9. The meeting, organized by Councilmember Ritchie Torres’s office, also included Councilmember Jimmy Vacca and representatives from the 49th Precinct.

Illegal barbecuing in the parks is a citywide issue, said Bronx Parks Commissioner Hector Aponte at the meeting, and there is a shortage of Parks Enforcement Patrol who don’t have the capacity to handle the problem at large. There are only 21 Parks Enforcement Patrol officers working in the Bronx, trying to enforce laws in more than 7,000 acres of lands.

“You’re preaching to the choir,” said Aponte about the member’s complaints.

But despite the shortage of PEP officers, the issue of illegal barbecuing is being addressed on a park-by-park basis in the Bronx, said Captain David Calderon.

PEP officers have been targeting illegal barbecuing in three parks since the summer began, he said, and Claremont Park, Mullaly Park, and Williamsbridge Oval have been on the receiving side of the department’s manpower.

The effort has been sucessful in those parks, he said, and more than 50 tickets were given in three weeks. But it takes six officers stationed in one park all day to get an area under control.

“It’s not easy,” said Calderon.

But in response to community leaders complaints, Calderon said it would be possible to shift the efforts to Bronx Park East or Pelham Parkway temporarily, rotating his team through the parks. The parks department might also get a helping hand from the 49th Precinct, said Commanding Officer Timothy McCormack, but he didn’t commit because he has to prioritize other types of enforcement.

While there were no specifics given at the meeting in terms of a time line for a “blitz” on barbecuers, the community leaders and councilmembers seemed happy with the progress.

Parks Committee chair Joanne Rubino said she was pleased with the outcome of the meeting, and she thinks the idea of spot enforcement is a good plan. But the issue isn’t solved yet, and she said the board will continue to check in with the Parks Department about enforcement.

“Follow up is the most important thing,” said Rubino.

Reach Reporter Jaime Williams at (718) 742–3383. E-mail her at jwilliams@cnglocal.com.

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