Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The letter to the Brooklyn Commissioner of Parks

I received no response, ever,  from the Parks Department. Emily Lloyd, the president of the Prospect Park Alliance contacted me in response to this letter to suggest volunteering to clean up the trash.

Date: Thu, Mar 3, 2011 at 3:31 PM
Subject: Litter in Prospect Park

Dear Commissioner Jeffrey

My name is Marie Viljoen and I am a Brooklyn resident, writer, blogger, photographer and gardener. I visit Prospect Park regularly.

Starting last year I became very despondent about the litter in the park. I see the park as an asset not only to New York City, but to the country. It is a beautiful and iconic landscape. To see it fall into apparent neglect is deeply disturbing.

There is litter in many areas, and especially after big events. The part that concerns me most, however, as it is perennial, and seems ignored and unchallenged, is in the Northeast, in the woods around the Vale of Cashmere and Rick's Place. The litter here is mostly the detritus of sexual activity: condoms, wrappers, lubricant, wet wipes, tissue paper, as well as the usual bottles, cups and plastic bags. This is a special part of the park. The Prospect Park Alliance describes it on their website as "the only forest in Brooklyn." That is why I love it, personally. Yet it is largely avoided by the most members of the public.

There are very few trash cans here. The forest floor is littered with trash. I wrote about this problem recently on my blog and consequently received a lot of traffic from local blogs Gothamist and Curbed, who picked up on the sexual connotations of the litter, but I would like to do more than make a noise. I would like to fix the litter problem.

To that end I have started contacting local bloggers and members of the community directly via an open letter to help come up with practical ideas to combat the litter as well as to start a publicity campaign to raise awareness of the issue. No practicable solutions can be reached without the support, feedback and involvement of you and the Parks Department. I understand that the litter problem is not new, is not easy, and that it must be one of the most onerous aspects of running a public park. But it exists and it has reached unacceptable levels.

Eugene Patron, the press director of the Prospect Park Alliance, emailed me yesterday in response to my blog post and explained that snow had delayed clean up, and that once volunteers are back in April, things will improve. I would be more cheered by this news if I had not seen the woods last November in the same state.

I was happy to see that you feel the same way about litter in the park (in an interview with the New York Daily News last October). I hope that we might meet to discuss what policies are currently in place, what the constraints are (budget, no doubt), and what might be done to solve a dirty and difficult problem.

Yours sincerely,

Marie Viljoen

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