Matthews Muliner Park has been through hell and back.
What was once the wild west is now a family-friendly playground thanks to an unwritten enforcement rule that closes the park at 6pm.
But recently the New York City Parks Department has allowed the acre-sized playground to close later and later. Longtime residents fear that approach will lead to history repeating itself.
“You can already see the semblance of gang activity here,” said Al D’Angelo, president of the Morris Park Community Association who has lived in the area for 38 years. He is now dealing with a spike in neighborhood complaints because the Parks Department has kept the gates open later, inviting a gang element into the park.
In a meeting on Wednesday, April 4, residents reported seeing gang members from the Bloods and Crips milling around in the park for upwards to 11 p.m. Graffiti and garbage are also making a comeback, according to D’Angelo.
“It’s going to disintegrate back to what it was 10 years ago,” said D’Angelo.
The park, named after crooked colonial pol David Matthews and Dutch settler Thomas Muliner, was not a bucolic spot during the early 2000s.
“Stabbings, wholescale drug activity, people getting mugged,” were some of the activity associated with Matthews Muliner, according to D’Angelo. The crime element kept homeowners indoors, fearful for their life.
“Once this park gets out from under us, we are done for as homeowners,” said a Morris Park neighbor, who requested to remain anonymous.
Zachary Feder, a Parks Department spokesman, said there is no agreement that the park closes its gates at 6 p.m.
“Like all of our playgrounds, Matthews Muliner Playground closes at dusk,” said Feder. “During these warmer months, with more hours of daylight and dusk arriving later, people will have more time to enjoy the park.”
Mohammed Mirza, a 15 year-old teen who goes to the park, stands behind the Parks Department.
“Nobody wants to go home early,” said Mirza. “I live across the street from this park I want to play.”
The last three weeks have seen little to no incidents, according to D’Angelo. The 49th Precinct’s Deputy Inspector Kevin Nicholson said his officers constantly patrol the area, but unless there is crime happening inside the park, arrests cannot be made.
“They’re not breaking any laws,” said Nicholson. “We can’t lock anyone up for being in the park.”
The community has requested a representative from the Parks Department to attend one of the group’s upcoming meetings. So far the Parks Department has not respond.
To reach reporter David Cruz, please call (718) 742-3383 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.