By Eric Yun
Local resident John Perricone and Citizens for a Better Ridgewood for months to rid Grover Cleveland Playground of unruly athletes and illegal food vendors.
At this month’s Citizens for a Better Ridgewood meeting on Monday night, city Parks Department officials and the 104th Precinct discussed ways to clean up the park.
Perricone claims the park’s visitors are a nuisance to the community, often double-parking or stopping in front of bus stops, fire hydrants and driveways—there are even accounts of people urinating on private property.
Grover Cleveland Playground’s Park Manager Helaine Soressi said the Parks Department is looking for better ways to involve the community in park activities. These efforts include giving more permits to community youth organizations and softball leagues rather than just letting any group use the fields. She said the department was looking to have more non-permitted time on weekend mornings so residents can use the park without dealing with the athletic leagues. Another option discussed was to give athletic permits on a rotating schedule so all the leagues don’t crowd the park on the same day.
The Parks Department is also looking to inform the community about the process for issuing permits to vendors.
“They’re going to meet with an advisory group to understand their community impact and so the community knows if the vendor is breaking the rules of the permit,” Soressi said.
Michael Hetzer, Citizens for a Better Ridgewood President, said the community’s efforts have nothing to do with who is using the park or for what purposes.
“I’m thrilled activities are going on, but they need to be good neighbors,” Hetzer said.
Regarding police presence at the park, the 104th Precinct’s Community Affairs Officer Tommy Bell stressed the importance of calling 311 if you see any violations at the park. “As much as we can, we will try to be there as fast as possible,” he said.
Inspector Keith Green, commanding officer of the 104th Precinct, attended the meeting to update the community on the area’s crime news. Most major crimes are down in the precinct, but auto thefts are still on the rise. Arrests are also increasing. There has been a 25 percent increase in major arrests, and a 14 percent overall increase in arrests in the precinct so far this year, Green said. Officers are also issuing more quality of life summonses.
Green reiterated the hard work the precinct has been doing to catch and charge graffiti vandals. “We’re getting jail time on these people now,” he said. The 104th Precinct is number one in graffiti related arrests in the city, and contrary to The Daily News report last week that said the 104th Precinct had 800 complaints, the precinct actually conducted 800 cleanups.
Another cause of concern for residents is deception burglaries. Green reported on a recent incident involved an 87-year-old woman who was approached by someone claiming to be her next-door neighbor. The man claimed his basement flooded and needed to check the victim’s basement. While the two inspected the basement, an accomplice upstairs stole property from the woman’s home. A variation of this crime includes people posing as utility company workers, he said.
The best way to prevent these crimes is to deny entry to anyone not specifically called for work or inspections, Green said. He stressed that residents should call 911 if they see suspicious activity.
“These people are trained and very convincing,” he warned.