Not Such a Nice Walk in the Park

Residents' frustration continues with the conditions of Dyker Beach Park

Each year, Dyker Beach Park attracts thousands of local south Brooklynites to enjoy their free time in the 212 acre green-space in the heart of one of New York City’s most affluent areas. Unfortunately for local residents and visitors, the park does not at all accurately reflect its location. With little done to address residents’ numerous grievances, a neighborhood is now riddled with anger and local elected officials are without many answers.

Dyker Beach Park is quite literally littered with problems. Among those of the highest contention is the exorbitant amount of garbage that plagues the permitter of the park. Surrounding the massive green space—which includes a luxury golf course— is general litter and most dauntingly, endless piles of illegally dumped items that include furniture, old television sets, tires, and even toilets. 

“We just started going for walks again around the park and it’s gross,” said Concetta Elizabeth I mean, let’s be honest, its been always nasty and dirty. But now, it's really filthy!”

Much of the trash buildup that has been covered by the recklessly growing landscape and foliage particularly in the pedestrian areas. Since the start of the pandemic in March, the New York City Parks Department has only done maintenance work on Dyker Beach Park once.

New York City Councilman Justin Brannan represents the Dyker Heights area. Since his first days in office, he has made it clear to his constituents that consistent park cleanups and maintenance have been at the top of his priorities.

“The chronic issues being described around the areas of Dyker Park, Poly Prep, and the Dyker Beach Golf Course have been on my radar ever since I took office, and even before then,” Brannan said. “A huge part of my job is advocating for multiagency responses to neighborhood problems like these, and that area is definitely one of the ones I've spent most time on.”

The poor standards of cleanliness dates back many years due to a dispute between the Parks Department and the privately owned and operated Dyker Golf Course who have had many discussions with regards to who is responsible for maintaining the property and its surrounding area.

“The illegal dumping and landscaping are ongoing issues that the golf course has responsibility for,” said New York State Senator Andrew Gounardes, who also represents the Dyker Heights area. “We work with them regularly to encourage them to maintain the property and have welcomed teams from the Dyker Golf Course to multiple community clean ups we have held in the area.”

Perhaps most bewildering and eerie to many residents is the abundance of occupied commercial vehicles, trucks and RV’s that linger around the park’s back corner in particular for consecutive weeks sometimes months.

Many residents—especially the elderly—have been more fearful of being in certain areas of the park considering the crime numbers in particular areas of the park outpace the rest of Dyker Heights in certain categories. According to the NYPD, in the last year beginning in January 2020, there have been six assaults, three grand larcenies and, two rapes. Ironically, an abundance of criminal activity stems from grand larcenies, burglaries, and petit larcenies of the same long term parked vehicles.

“Not only does it monopolize space, it also creates potential dangerous situations for those who walk or jog around there,” said Denise Cangemi. “I have many seniors who say they want to walk around the golf course but are petrified that someone may be hiding behind the trucks to do harm to those passing by. Why can’t anything just be easy and have things make sense and have things get taken care of?”

Like the trash problem, the shady vehicles have been apart of the Dyker Beach Park lore for many years now. On this issue, Brannan continues to field calls and emails of residents vocalizing their concerns about the park. He blames city officials and City Hall for slashing budgets of vital everyday services.

“The city is dealing with limited resources,” Brannan explained. “The NYPD only has so many vehicles equipped to tow trucks as large as those we see parked around Dyker Park, and both the Parks Department and Sanitation have recently been affected by decreases in budget and staffing.”

Much of the work that’s done around the park is sporadic and only comes from neighborhood cleanups organized by Gounadres.

“llegally dumping garbage is destructive to the entire neighborhood and a huge blight to our shared spaces, Gounardes said. By engaging volunteers to do regular community clean ups we contribute to a culture where we all take pride in our shared spaces.”

Though Brannan says he is hard on the case, problems still linger—though they might go unnoticed during the colder months. Currently, four RV’s surround Dyker Beach Park and have moved locations a total of four times during the summer months as to avoid the random and uncommon mass tow-away that the NYPD Traffic Division conducts. 

“I have many seniors who say they want to walk around the golf course but are petrified that someone may be hiding behind the trucks to do harm to those passing by. Why can’t anything just be easy and have things make sense and have things get taken care of?”

No one has been in contact with the occupants of these RV’s since they parked near the park many months ago.

While there is no official answer about how the multitude of vehicles got to the park area, rumors have spread amongst locals that Dyker Beach Park was denoted as a rest area in many trucker’s maps. Those claims have gone on to be unfounded. Brannan contends that the reason so many vehicles find themselves in Dyker is because of the long history of this same issue.

“There is certainly no official truck or rest stop in the area around Dyker Park and is absolutely not permitted under any circumstances,” Brannan said. “The problem is a culture of these things was allowed to grow for years without being seriously challenged, and the result is what we're contending with now.”

Meanwhile as Dyker Heights struggles with its own park problems, less than two miles away in Bay Ridge, Shore Road Park has none of these same issues despite being in similar locations and having much of the same amenities. 

“It’s usually pretty quiet around here,” said nearby resident David Carrington. “I live just two blocks up and when I’m near here I only see many families and groups of friends, nothing too out of the ordinary.”

One striking difference between the two parks is location. Shore Road Park has a view directly of Lower New York Bay and its coastal location leaves little to no room for illegally parked vehicles and trash piles to go without being noticed. The park is also near the NYC Ferry 69th Street Pier.

“The weirdest things I see around Shore Road Park are the occasional incidents of a group of teenagers on a weekend night going smoking some weed in the heavily bushed area of the park,” Carrington said. “Honestly, it doesn’t even feel like Brooklyn though most times. It’s like being in a park in Jersey or Connecticut with lots of families, green space and it’s just kept well.”

With the colder weather having settled in for the winter, the trash problem has alleviated itself as it does during this time of year. However, the RV issue still remains with more vehicles having parked near the area for prolonged periods of time.

For Brannan—who will undoubtedly face questions about his park response in his upcoming bid for reelection—his work continues to try and alleviate the substantial problems that have left many of his constituents furious.

“I strive for our district to be the cleanest and safest in the city,” Brannan said. “I will always fight for as much attention as we can get for this local problem spot."

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