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West/south BX community react: Syringe dropoff kiosks installed in parks

Bronx Times
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The city has found a new use for the Bronx’ scare parks: over a dozen of them will now be used as collection sites for used heroin needles.

On Monday, May 21, NYC Parks announced a partnership with the NYC Health Department to address the growing problem of discarded drug syringes in our borough’s parks.

More than 60 syringe disposal kiosks will be installed in some of the parks in the west and south Bronx communities.

The green collection boxes will be found at St. Mary’s Park in Mott Haven, Aqueduct Walk in Morris Heights, and Franz Siegel Park near Yankee Stadium.

The installation of these kiosks already began and will continue through the end of June. Some have breathed sighs of relief after hearing the plans.

“Knowing we will have the kiosks makes me feel less worried,” said 24-year-old Lyle Gonzales, who lives along Burnside Avenue.

Gonzales explained he used to frequent Aqueduct Walk to walk his dog, but stopped after finding stray needles.

“The syringe kiosk disposal plan is a much-needed resource for my community,” said Councilman Rafael Salamanca Jr. whose district has Crotona Park, Concrete Plant Park and Rainey Park, which are all on the list to receive the disposal kiosks.

“Having a secure, contained and accessible disposal is a good step toward eliminating syringes in our parks.”

Others were concerned about the message these kiosks could send to the community.

“Our community has limited open space,” said Dr. Bola Omotosho, the chairperson of Community Board 5 of the importance the parks are to the communities in his district. “While this initiative could be helpful, I don’t want people in the community to think our parks are for drug users.”

Parks estimated their staff collects almost 5,000 needles a week through all the parks in the borough, but the kiosks will be placed in parks where the most syringes are found.

The idea for the kiosks, which are part of the city’s HealingNYC program to combat the opioid epidemic, stemmed from success seen in similar initiatives in Vancouver, Canada and Seatlle, WA, according to NYC Parks commissioner, Mitchell J. Silver.

“Everyone deserves parks that are safe and clean,” said commissioner Silver in a statement on the program.

There are currently two designs for the kiosks, one of which will be placed in comfort stations of the parks and the other to be placed throughout the parks.

The kiosks will be locked and only contain a small opening to insert syringes.

These kiosks will be regularly cleaned and emptied by professionals with blood-borne pathogen training, according to NYC Parks.

Others in the communities around the designated parks were satisfied with how close the kiosks would be to areas where there are children.

“Hopefully it’ll help control syringes from just being thrown around, but I don’t like how close they are to the school, M.S. 223,” said Chester Montes, deacon at the Third Spanish Baptist Church in Mott Haven, which is near Clark Playground, also on the list to get kiosks.

Montes also said his congregation often picks up litter in the neighborhood and one of their concerns is finding discarded needles.

Other parks listed to receive the kiosks include Tremont Park, Ryan Triangle and Garrison Playground in Mott Haven, Claremont Park, and University Woods next to Bronx Community College.

Reach Reporter Sarah Valenzuela at (718) 260-4584. E-mail her at svalenzuela@cnglocal.com.
Updated 5:16 pm, July 9, 2018
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