Gambling at Devoe a problem

Devoe Park at night, at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and W. Fordham Road.

Some Bronxites who live or work near Devoe Park say the playground has become a magnet for illegal activity – cards, betting, booze and more.

At a Community Board 7 meeting Tuesday, November 17, residents and board members spoke out against the gamblers who populate Devoe Park day and night.

“It’s out of control,” Carlos Cortez, a board member said. “You go to that park in the summertime and it’s an uncivilized world.”

Devoe Park, which recently underwent a $14 million makeover and re-opened August 14, sits north of W. Fordham Road, between Sedgwick Avenue and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard (University Avenue).

The park’s Croton-funded renovation added new spray showers, landscaping and playground equipment.

Now thm Manager Fernando Tirado.

“We spent millions refurbishing that park,” Tirado said. “The last thing we want to see is the park deteriorating. It’s supposed to be a refuge for citizens, not a gambling den.”

At Van Cortlandt Avenue’s Glad Tidings Church November 17, CB 7 voted to send a letter of complaint to Bronx Parks Commissioner Hector Aponte and the 52nd Precinct.

Officer Wilson Hernandez from the 52nd Precinct promised to take a look at Devoe Park. If the environment doesn’t improve soon, Hernandez said, officers could hand out court summonses.

Tirado wants the Parks Department to shoulder responsibility as well.

“It’s easy to say ‘let the police take care of it,’ but we’re suggesting that the Parks Department hire more officers to patrol our parks.”

With regard to the gambling in Devoe Park, summonses may not be necessary. CB 7 chairman Greg Faulkner believes much of the gaming is cultural in nature, rather than criminal.

“There seems to be one particular group doing it,” Faulkner said. “We shouldn’t stigmatize them. We should educate them – let them know it’s not appropriate to gamble in the park.”

Large sums of money pass between the gamers, a fact that concerns both Tirado and Faulkner.

“It doesn’t set a good example for our kids,” Tirado said.

Henry Roger has lived across from Devoe Park, on Father Zeiser Place, for 17 years. One group of gamblers – Asian Americans – favor the park’s south side. A second clique – predominantly Hispanic American – appeared last year, Roger said.

“This park is hell during the summer,” he added. “Gambling, drinking, drugs. We call the police. It’s loud from six in the morning until three at night.”

Roger blames the noise on Devoe Park’s new arrivals, rather than the Asian Americans.

“The Chinese or Korean guys, they keep to themselves,” he said. “But man, they bet heavy.”

CB 7 will send a second letter to Aponte and the 52nd as well. Poor lighting is a problem at the park. Community members, including Faulkner, avoid the spot at night.

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