Warmer Weather Brings Troublemakers to a Green Stretch of Queens

A group of children and adults walk through Highland Park during the day, the time when most people visit. (Photo by Carolina Ledezma/EDLP)

At over 100 acres, Highland Park’s prime location on a plateau that separates Queens and Brooklyn gives local residents and families space to enjoy some sunshine and fresh air. However, reporter Carolina Ledezma of El Diario/La Prensa finds that with the nicer weather comes gang members intent on disturbing the peace. Below is the translation from Spanish.

In the neighborhood of Cypress Hills, the ghost of danger looms, hindering many residents from spending time in a beautiful local park. People only visit during daylight hours.

In Highland Park, a green zone that divides Brooklyn and Queens, as flowers and vegetables now grow in the community garden, weeds also seem to thrive.

According to some locals, undesirable visitors have been frequenting the area — gangs that take refuge in the handball courts, and thieves that terrorize residents.

Enrique Núñez, owner of New Way Grocery on the corner of Ridgewood and Essex Avenues, watched someone rob a teenager of his sneakers a few weeks ago.

“The police came that day, but they couldn’t do anything because there was a group of about six young men, around 15 years old, armed with bats,” he recalled. He also mentioned that a female baker has been the victim of robberies.

“You didn’t used to see them in the wintertime,” he said, “but it’s different now that the weather is warmer.”

Juan Rodríguez, president of the 75th Precinct Community Council, has also received complaints from residents, who have seen gangs gather in the rear part of the park.

“A lady called me because she saw a group of about 20 people heading towards the park carrying bats and chains,” he said.

Rodríguez conveys these complaints – the majority of them anonymous – to the authorities. He confessed that the staff at the precinct isn’t adequate for an at-risk zone such as Cypress Hills or East New York.

Reinforcing Security

“I don’t let my wife and kids go to the park,” said a local resident, who said he had heard that more than 12 gangs are active in the area, including the Latin Kings, the Crips, and the Bloods.

A youth who often uses the park’s sports facilities said he has seen some of these gangs.

“Every time, more teenagers show up,” said the youth, who did not wish to be identified for fear of retaliation. “They come in the afternoon when school gets out.”

During the day, many children visit the park, accompanied by their parents or teachers. Elizabeth Lluberes and Jorge Brioso, a couple of Dominican heritage, enjoy bringing their two children to the park, but Lluberes said she is afraid to go alone.

“I’ve wanted to come walking here at seven in the morning, and people tell me it’s dangerous,” she said. “The park really is very deserted at that time.”

The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, the New York Police Department, and Community Board 5 did not respond to requests for numbers on reports of criminal activity in Highland Park.

However, based on what he hears on the streets of Cypress Hills, Juan Rodriguez insists that its security should be reinforced with guards. But the Parks Department said safety is the responsibility of NYPD.

Highland Park is located on the border between Brooklyn and Queens.


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