Local leaders say they’ll continue to hold the parks department’s feet to the fire over the issue of illegal barbecuing on Pelham Parkway.
Community Board 11, along with neighboring community associations, pushed the parks department last year to increase the number of Parks Enforcement Patrol officers visiting the site on summer weekends, when grills are often set up in the green space between Wallace Avenue and Williamsbridge Road.
Barbecuing in city parks is illegal except in designated areas, of which the closest to Pelham Parkway is in Pelham Bay Park.
After insisting the Parks Department provide enforcement to help combat the proliferation of grills on the greenway last summer, there was a noticeable decline in the number of barbecuers, said Edith Blitzer of the Pelham Parkway Neighborhood Association.
“We’re hoping this summer will be even better,” said Blitzer.
The parks department attended the PPNA’s April meeting to discuss the plan for the summer’s enforcement.
Shortly afterwards, they installed more than a dozen new, red signs that inform park goers ‘no barbecuing in this area.’ The old signs were fewer in number, a dark green color and placed higher.
“Only the birds were able to read the old signs,” said Blitzer.
The signs are definitely an improvement, said CB 11 Parks Committee chair Joanne Rubino, but they won’t solve the problem at hand.
“The signs aren’t enough,” said Rubino.
Patrolling is necessary, she said, because people will continue to barbecue as long as they feel no one is watching.
“With enforcement and summonses, people will start to realize its not an option,” said Rubino.
The effort to eliminate barbecuing was off to a rocky start over Mother’s Day weekend.
A dozen different groups were barbecuing on the greenway, said Bronx Park East Community Association chairman Raphael Schweizer, with not an enforcement agent in sight.
“This past Mother’s Day [enforcement agents] were pretty much non-existent,” said Schweizer. “PEP needs to be there on holidays to enforce the park rules and make the park enjoyable for everyone.”
But Rubino said the parks department has promised to begin enforcement before Memorial Day, which along with the Fourth of July and Labor Day are the problematic weekends.
Barbecuing creates a number of issues, said Rubino, one of which is unhealthy smoke that drifts into apartments near the parkway.
Another problem is that when people barbecue under trees it can singe the leaves.
Additionally the hot coals from barbecuing are often dumped on the base of trees or on the grass, where they cause damage to the greenery as well a hazard to kids running around.
The garbage and food left behind by the parties is also a nuisance to neighbors.
“They don’t clean up after themselves,” said Rubino. “It’s out of control.”
The local leaders say they’re pushing the issue in order to protect their park.
“We want the park to be enjoyed by people—not burned down,” said Blitzer.
She hopes the parks department will keep its word and continue to build upon the improvements made last year.
“We’ll keep a close watch,” said Blitzer.
The parks department did not respond to a request for comment.