By Assemblymember Harvey Epstein
For almost four decades, Bellevue South Park has provided Kips Bay residents a much-needed oasis for recreation and relaxation in an area otherwise starved for green space. Unfortunately, in recent years, the park has become a hotspot for illegal activity that includes drinking and drug use. These behaviors make the park unwelcome and unsafe for the families in the neighborhood. We must address these problems as a community and make the park a safe and enjoyable place for all.
Bellevue Hospital, which operates over 300 psychiatric beds, and the 850-bed 30th Street Men’s Shelter are just steps away from the park, making it a natural hang out spot for homeless individuals as well as those with mental health issues. Often these groups overlap, creating even greater challenges with providing services. Further complicating the situation is the nearby The Children’s Center, whose clients are city’s most vulnerable children waiting to be placed with a foster family. Teens in the facility face incredible emotional stress and unfortunately have a history of being involved in violent incidents around the neighborhood.
Earlier this month, my office worked with the Friends of Bellevue South Park to bring together the stakeholders affected by the problems at the park. We did a walkthrough with NYPD’s Neighborhood Coordination Officers (NCOs), the Department of Homeless Services (DHS), representatives from the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) Children’s Center and Councilmember Rivera’s office and the local NYCHA development’s tenants’ association president. Bringing everyone together enabled us to outline some clear communication protocols to ensure that when a park goer observed concerning behavior, he or she knew who to contact to redress that situation quickly. At our suggestion, the 13th Precinct’s NCO Supervisor also committed to having the officers responsible for the sector spend more time canvassing the park whenever possible.
I understand the neighborhood’s frustrations with the behavior at the park –– I share them. But we cannot simply register our discontent over the problems at Bellevue South Park without engaging and working collectively to reach solutions. Like NYPD, DHS and ACS, we as community members have a responsibility to do what we can to address the problems at the park. I am hopeful that by working together to ensure that homeless individuals are getting the services they need and having NCOs on hand to quickly address illegal behavior, we can improve conditions in the park.
Please feel free to reach out to my office at (212) 979-9696 if you have concerns about Bellevue South Park. I look forward to working with you to make our Bellevue South Park the park our neighborhood deserves.