INWOOD — Locals weary of lawless behavior at Inwood Hill Park are calling on the city and elected officials to step up enforcement there as the weather heats up.
More than 200 residents have signed a Change.org petition asking City Councilmen Robert Jackson and Ydanis Rodriguez, Assemblywoman Gabriela Rosa and State Sen. Adriano Espaillat to make safety and quality of life issues in the park, which has been the site of muggings and sexual assaults in the past, their top priority.
John Barclay, who created the petition, said he wants to see more Parks Enforcement Patrol (PEP) officers in the park.
"We keep hearing from the Parks Department that there's not enough resources to patrol every park," said Barclay, 34, president of the dog-enthusiast group Inwoof who lives in Inwood. "So then it's the elected official's job to provide resources, and we have to let them know that we need our parks cleaned up."
During a walk through the park Tuesday, Barclay pointed to an empty beer box spilling out from a trash can.
"You know people are drinking out here," he said. "Nobody does anything about it."
Barclay, who spends 7 to 10 hours a week in the park, added that it is plagued by public drinking and urination, barbecues in unauthorized places and electric bikes that speed through the park. Fly balls either from nearby baseball games or from players who smack balls into the fences for batting practice are a hazard, too.
Several residents have added their voices to the petition since it went live on April 7.
"Each summer, my daughter and I are exposed to men urinating in the park and balls almost hitting us," wrote resident Dana Yeary. "Nothing is done to prevent this."
"There is almost no enforcement of noise regulations in the summer, and there are serious problems with trash after the unauthorized barbecues that are always happening," wrote John Morton.
When asked about the petition, Espaillat's office pointed to a March 5 letter sent to the NYPD and Parks Department in which the senator asked for increased patrols in the park.
"Inwood Hill Park is a terrific neighborhood asset, and I'm working to make it even cleaner and safer," Espaillat said in a statement. "I appreciate the additional squad cars that have been deployed to the park and surrounding neighborhood, but foot patrols also are necessary to ensure that crime keeps dropping in the 34th precinct."
Parks Department spokesman Philip Abramson told DNAinfo.com New York that the department will be hiring 81 new, full-time PEP officers and deploying them across the five boroughs.
"NYC Parks remains committed to a high level of public safety in Inwood Hill Park. We will continue to work closely with the Police Department in addressing criminal activity in parks," Abramson said.
It was not immediately clear how many would be assigned to Inwood Hill Park.