Matthews-Muliner Park will officially close at 7 p.m., and you can thank the power of the people.
Several months ago the Morris Park playground had been kept opened past 7 p.m., attracting a seedy element to the park, according to Al D’Angelo, head of the Morris Park Community Association.
“Residents started seeing kids urinating in the bushes, graffiti, and vandalism escalating,” said D’Angelo. “It’s not healthy for young children coming to play.”
Longtime residents fumed that the city Parks Department reneged on their longtime verbal aggreement to close the metal gates in the evening.
At a meeting with Parks community liasion Valerie Davis-O’Neil, neighbors blasted the agency’s recent policy to keep the park open with the arrival of warmer weather and longer days.
Emails, phone calls and letters went directly to Davis-O’Neill pleading the neighborhood’s case. She passed them on to Bronx Parks Commissioner Hector Aponte.
“We were told it was going to be difficult to do because the Parks Department was so short-staffed,” said D’Angelo.
The association then enlisted the help of Councilman Jimmy Vacca. At a closed-door meeting with Aponte, Vacca and Deputy Inspector Kevin Nicholson of the 49th Precinct explained the problems of not enforcing the unwritten rule. That did the trick.
“We did order signs that the park will be closed at 7 p.m. and they will be installed” said Parks spokesman Zach Feder.
“There will be Parks personnel to lock up the park at that time,” said Vacca. “There will be 49th Precinct enforcement if people don’t comply.”
The family-friendly playground had been through hell during the late 90s into the early 2000s. Muggings, drug use and gang activity were the norm in the area, according to D’Angelo.
To prevent the park from going to the “bad old days”, the Parks Department agreed to close the park at 6 p.m.
Additional reporting by Patrick Rocchio. Reach reporter David Cruz at 7(18) 742-3383 or firstname.lastname@example.org.