By Matthew Vann
Special to DNA info.com New York
BROOKLYN — James Dellacava loves the basketball court and sitting on the swings after school at Power Playground near his Flatlands home.
He’s not so thrilled, however, about the overflowing garbage bins and litter scattered throughout the Avenue N park.
"I come here to get some exercise and sports in," said James, 16, as he stared at unswept leaves and plastic trash bags, empty soda bottles and a cardboard box. "By the time I leave there’s even more trash on the ground. It’s not right."
That sentiment reflects Community Board 18’s overall park scores for its southern Brooklyn district. Green spaces in the Mill Basin, Flatlands and Canarsie sections of Brooklyn have gotten the city’s lowest scores for cleanliness and general conditions for the past three years.
This year, its scores continue to lag far behind parks in other neighborhoods around the city.
"It’s upsetting. This is a beautiful neighborhood," said Esther Moti, as she carried her friend’s 1-year-old out of Bergen Beach Park to avoid shattered glass near the exit. "The fact that this park is located next to a school means that the kids should have a clean place to play. But they don’t."
Larger parks in the area like Marine Park and Canarsie Park, which together account for nearly 1,000 acres, passed routine inspections. But community board members said that tending to those parks takes away attention from smaller parks, making overall park maintenance difficult.
"I’ve lived here for the past seven years, and it’s always been like this," Moti said. "It’s rarely cleaned."
According to Parks Department data, less than half of the playgrounds in the area earned passing marks. Citywide, the parks rate the worst on cleanliness — with only 53 percent of small parks in the neighborhoods being acceptably clean, compared to 66 percent in the rest of Brooklyn and 87 percent in other boroughs.
The data comes from the city’s Parks Inspection Program (PIP), which evaluates parks on the basis of litter, graffiti, glass and playground conditions.
Local officials said a lack of adequate city funding to the district is at the heart of the problem, which has remained unchanged since the Parks Department cut its budget and the economic downturn hit.
"I dispute the fact that we have the lowest scores in the city," said Community Board 18 District Manager Dorothy Turano. "We really need more maintenance staff at these parks, and we’re not getting our fair share."
In response to CB18’s poor park conditions, Brooklyn Parks Commissioner Kevin Jeffery said the department will hire a southern Brooklyn parks administrator to work with community groups to ensure that parks in the neighborhood are better maintained.
"Parks actively monitors all conditions found in parks and prioritizes repairs depending on the severity of these conditions," said agency spokeswoman Meghan Lalor. "Conditions that do not present hazards to the public are addressed in a prompt manner."
But for residents who are ready to hit their local green spaces this summer, the cleanup isn’t coming fast enough.
"I’ve been to parks where there are syringes and cigarette butts on the ground," said Jackie Williams, who regularly takes her 2-year-old son to play at parks in Mill Basin.
"There isn’t any of that here, but I haven’t seen anyone come around to clean up the parks since the weather got warm."