Homeless have left Weeping Beech Park

By Madina Toure

Elderly residents are frequenting Weeping Beech Park in Flushing again after the nearby Bowne House expressed concerns about homeless people living in the park as well as criminal activities.

An officer on the board of directors of the Bowne House Historical Society had called on the city Parks Department and other city agencies to address the homeless encampment and the drinking and drug activities that have been taking place in the park, located at 143-20 37th Ave., throughout the last year.

The officer said she has not seen homeless people in the park and credited the Parks Department with cleaning up the grounds.

But she said that the park still has an unpleasant odor. She also said that there is still a drinking problem during the daytime, although the problem has somewhat lessened with the gates being locked at 9 p.m.

“I think the effort was made to find suitable services for them,” she said. “What we’re left with is the negative, is the drinking and other activities.”

When a reporter visited the park last week, there were about 31 people in the park, mostly elderly individuals sitting on benches chatting and a group of Asian men playing chess. There were three individuals who appeared to be mentally ill.

Michael Clarke, 62, who has been living at the Flushing YMCA for about a week now, has been to the park three times so far.

He said that homeless people come to the park periodically and that he sees people drinking and smoking cigarettes on and off. But overall, he says but that the park seems to be in good shape.

“So far everything is nice,” Clarke said. “They have kids that come out and play.”

A 50-year-old South Korean native had been living in the park for a month with her husband, her 30-year-old daughter and their dog since they lost their home.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Homeless Services said outreach staff has gotten the family to come indoors.

A Parks spokeswoman said the agency’s Park Enforcement Patrol and maintenance divisions are continuing to monitor and maintain the park regularly.

Beautify Historic Flushing, a volunteer group, has received a $6,000 grant from the City Parks Foundation through the Parks Equity Initiative to continue its work in the park, according to the Bowne House officer.

State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing) said that she saw an officer from the 109th Precinct at the park about two weeks ago and that they discussed the problems in the park. She also spoke to people in the precinct’s community affairs department.

“I’m happy that the Department of Homeless Services is reaching out to help these folks because we do have a very significant homeless problem,” Stavisky said.

Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtoure@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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