Morningside Park Overwhelmed by Trash After July 4 BBQ, Residents Say
HARLEM — To hear locals tell it, the green oasis that is Morningside Park becomes something like an aftermath of an tornado following warm-weather holidays and summer weekends.
And after the long Fourth of July weekend, lawns at the park, which stretches from West 110th to West 123rd streets between Manhattan and Morningside avenues, were strewn with everything from an abandoned barbecue grill and charcoal placed in tree pits to a plastic chair and overturned tables, residents said.
"We love to see people out in the park, but we want people to use the park responsibly," said Brad Taylor, president of Friends of Morningside Park.
Many of the large events are organized by people who don't even live in the neighborhood, Taylor added.
"A lot of these events that cause problems are much larger than your ordinary family barbecue," he said.
Area residents said the trash mainly came from a barbecue organized by actress, singer and Kanye West protege Teyana Taylor.
The Harlem native, who is not related to Brad Taylor, and her management company denied the accusations on social media.
"Everyone was well behaved & having a great time!" Teyana Taylor, who said 3,500 people attended the July 4 barbecue, tweeted Monday.
There were also other events over the weekend that the Friends of Morningside Park believe were unpermitted, including a child's party on Sunday they claim featured an inflatable bouncy house installed on the park's lawn.
The Parks Department requires permits for events with more than 20 people or where a section of the park is being reserved. A permit is also required from the NYPD to use amplified sound.
The Friends of Morningside Park said they were informed by park officials that there was no permit for the bouncy house and that police thought the Teyana Taylor barbecue had been canceled after organizers were informed a permit was required.
Officers from the 26th Precinct did not respond to a request for comment and the Parks Department did not grant an interview about permits, but instead issued a statement.
"After a hot holiday weekend where parks throughout the city were widely attended, Parks staffers began working [Monday] at sunrise cleaning them up," said Phillip Abramson, a spokesman for the Parks Department. "Further, staff was working over the weekend, handing out garbage bags to patrons to encourage them to bag up their litter."
Parks staff was still cleaning the weekend mess on Monday.
"The Parks Department has done a good job of getting stuff cleaned up more quickly than before," Brad Taylor said, "but it's still out of control."
Eddy Portnoy, 47, an educator, lives near the park and uses it on a daily basis. Seeing piles of trash in the park this weekend has made him change his mind about whether barbecuing should be allowed in the park.
"I feel something needs to change," he said.
The issue of barbecuing in the park has become a hot-button issue in the quickly gentrifying neighborhood, with some longtime residents accusing newcomers of not respecting a local tradition.
Teyana Taylor's mother and manager Nikki Taylor also took to Twitter over the weekend to deny that her daughter's barbecue contributed to the trash heap.
"There were 1,000 other cookouts that took place in Morningside Park yesterday," Nikki Taylor wrote.
She also said that she and others personally stayed behind to clean up until they were forced out of the park by police, who told them the Parks Department would clean up the items they left behind.
Nikki Taylor said her daughter "will not be held responsible for others who had BBQ's in the park, and didn't attempt to clean up behind themselves."
Brad Taylor said part of the problem is that barbecuing at the park places an additional cleaning burden on the Parks Department.
Portnoy agreed, saying that park maintenance workers' time "could be better spent taking care of other park issues instead of constantly having to clean."
Brad Taylor said he'd like to see additional fees be tacked onto permits for large events and that maybe an extra barbecue permit fee would allow workers to be paid overtime to clean the park.
"There are parks with large endowments that don't allow barbecues so that function is being pushed on parks like ours that don't have the resources," he said. "Maybe the resources should be spread around."