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January 6, 2012 / Brooklyn news / Park Slope / Meadows of Shame

Uprooted! City chops Prospect Park ‘tree houses’

The Brooklyn Paper
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The city wants Prospect Park’s homeless tree dwellers to make like a tree — and leave.

Parks Department employees removed possessions belonging to a group of homeless people living inside rotten trees on the east side of the lake after wildlife advocates complained the shanties were destroying a fragile ecosystem.

On Thursday, witnesses spotted dozens of workers — rangers and park enforcement officers among them — arrive in SUVs and pick-up trucks, then clear out clothing and bedding from a homeless encampment where a small colony of makeshift tree houses popped up in early December.

“Vehicles were everywhere, circling like vultures,” said Anne-Katrin Titze, who frequents the park so often she might as well live there, too.

The Prospect Park Alliance says it will remove at least four of the inhabited trees because they are not healthy.

The sweep comes after The Brooklyn Paper reported on a colony of transients using more than a dozen hollow trees near the Tennis Center for shelter and storage — leaving behind junk that makes the lake dirty and irks park advocates, who say the trash is bad for mother nature.

A spokesman for the park said the city works with the Department of Homeless Services to keep people from living in the greenspace.

“Camping is illegal in parks and any indication of a campsite is removed when found,” said Paul Nelson, of the Prospect Park Alliance.

Nelson could not confirm which other city agencies were involved on Thursday night.

It’s not the first time authorities have forced living beings from Prospect Park. Last March, police, the Department of Homeless and park enforcement officers all took part in clearing out a six-foot-tall shanty built from twigs near the Vanderbilt Street entrance.

And in 2010, federal agents entered the park and slaughtered more than 250 geese in a controversial extermination intended to keep the birds from interfering with airplane flight paths.

Reach reporter Natalie O'Neill at noneill@cnglocal.com or by calling her at (718) 260-4505.

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Reader Feedback

Kat from Brooklyn says:
Welcome to the NY POLICE State..our fellow humans can't even look for a shelter in NYC's nature..not on a bench, not on the train...no jobs to pay for rent...but they have their "special" shelter facilities for them...sounds familiar?
Jan. 6, 2012, 7:32 am
al pankin from downtown says:
good riddence..what took so long?
maybe the city should buy them bus tickets to go to florida, it's warmer...florida is giving the homeless bus tickets to new york.
Jan. 6, 2012, 7:47 am
PS says:
why does Anne-Katrin Titze hate the homeless so much?
Jan. 6, 2012, 10:35 am
UmadBro from wat says:
@ Kate.
The parks are for recreational use, not for homeless people to build homes.

There are ample employment opportunities in this city; in fact millions of New Yorkers have jobs, make money and pay rent.
If you can't afford to live in New York then move somewhere else, no one says you have to live here.
Keep the homeless and drug dealers out of the park.
Jan. 6, 2012, 10:55 am
Deb from prospect park area says:
That first line is in such bad taste, it disgusts me. This is no laughing matters, and you shouldn't make jokes about it.
Jan. 6, 2012, 11:42 am
Deb from prospect park area says:
*matter

no way to edit your response here, that would be a plus. Just a suggestion.
Jan. 6, 2012, 11:49 am
Tom from BK says:
Good for the Parks Dept. Those folks work for almost nothing, almost as volunteers, only to have people turn Prospect Park into a slum? Times are tough and the homeless need help and compassion more than ever; but that doesn't mean anyone's entitled to destroy one of NY's great treasures. We have so little nature in this city, it needs protecting.
Jan. 6, 2012, 12:23 pm
PS says:
1. parks dept folks do not work for 'almost nothing.'

2. the homeless in the park barely make a mark on the park. try visiting the park the day after a charity walk or any of the bike or running races. that's when you'll see prospect park turned into a slum.
Jan. 6, 2012, 12:32 pm
Tom from BK says:
PS, really? Obviously the commissioner makes a good salary, but you think the grunts tasked with actually going in and cleaning out these trees are bringing home a good living? Think again.
Jan. 6, 2012, 12:38 pm
PS says:
Tom from BK: no, not really. i just wrote that to spew crap out of my mouth like you. or wait. yes, they do. the alliance has volunteers, the parks dept has some folks that might work b.c for legal reasons, like other city depts, but it also has fully paid workers.
Jan. 6, 2012, 12:51 pm
Catherine from Windsor Terrace says:
oh wow and yes, let's not forget the geese that were killed. That was horrible.

Does anyone know if that will be happening again?
I sure hope not. Better yet, my kids hope not.
Jan. 6, 2012, 1:29 pm
sslope from south slope says:
The homeless people in the neighborhood are for the most part mentally ill and/or drug addicts. Leaving them to fester in the park is not a good solution. Several of the people in question are well-known junkies who often steal to support their habits. Until the remaining drug dealers in the area (also well-known) are put in jail for good, the only hope for these individuals is to be moved out of the area away from the drug dealing networks in which they participate. Those of you who sympathize and give them money so that you can feel better about yourself are only making the problem worse. If you want to help, give to the many organizations around the city that work with the homeless.
Jan. 6, 2012, 1:37 pm
Annie from Prospect Park Southwest says:
While in theory I have no problem with so called transients living in the park, if their presence is detrimental on the wildlife and trees, we have problems.

Like the birds at the lakeside, the only thing they should be leaving behind is their waste product, and perhaps they are capable of even cleaning that up as well and leaving it in a garbage bin? Yes, if they clean up after themselves, they are welcome to stay. In fact, perhaps they could clean up some of the copious amounts of human waste around the lake and truly earn their stay.
Jan. 6, 2012, 2:07 pm
UmadBro from wat says:
SSlope is 100% right on this issue.
Jan. 6, 2012, 2:09 pm
Bill from PS says:
"PS says: try visiting the park the day after a charity walk or any of the bike or running races. that's when you'll see prospect park turned into a slum."

Seriously?! People running/biking/charity walking pay a park fee that goes to keeping the park up and running. Often they are raising money for a charity. Bums don't help society in any way whatsoever.

Bums sleeping in hollowed out tree leave their trash everywhere and should be kicked out asap.

I'd favor moving them to a proper shelter, but the park is not that. Get them outta the park!
Jan. 6, 2012, 5:44 pm
PS says:
Bill from PS - yes, seriously. they do. i know this because i live next to the park. i also see the 'mess' that homeless folks leave in the park. no comparison. you think that the fees that organizers of races/walks covers the cleanup of the park? you think that the cleanup costs between the two, even accounting for fees to the park is comparable? now who's being serious.
Jan. 6, 2012, 6:01 pm
Moses from Park Slope says:
Weird jokey lede on a story with actual news.
Jan. 7, 2012, 1:44 pm
Kirk from Park Slope says:
"any indication of a campsite is removed when found,” said Paul Nelson, of the Prospect Park Alliance

This is why the Alliance does not check for "any indication"

Look and ye shall find, don't look and you have years of abuses to Prospect Park's landscape that go unseen.

This article highlights one of many such disconnections with his comment.
Jan. 7, 2012, 2:12 pm
margaret from gowanus says:
Deb Lynne how can you be so cruel and heartless? Try living homeless and see how you would feel about the comment you just made.
Jan. 8, 2012, 12:22 pm
A.B. from Cobble Hill says:
I worked in Prospect Park for years, specifically restoring the woodlands. In my experience, people recreating in the woodlands (especially the phenomenal number of people having sex in there) have a negative impact that is orders of magnitude greater than that of the homeless population. For the most part, the homeless population kept a very low profile.

That said, there is a very high incidence of mental illness in the homeless population (so no, "UmadBro" there are not ample employment opportunities for these folks. If you are spending sub-zero nights outdoors, more likely than not, you are a person in crisis). We had reason to believe that homeless individuals were responsible for at least one very serious sexual assault while I worked there. The City should make every effort to provide safe beds and mental and other services.
Jan. 8, 2012, 2:04 pm
A.B. from Cobble Hill says:
@ Deb Lynne: Health emergencies and the resulting expenditures are the leading cause of personal bankruptcy in this country and high on the list of reasons that people lose their home. Homelessness is, by and large, a completely preventable situation that our education and healthcare systems could head off.
Jan. 8, 2012, 2:10 pm
A.B. from Cobble Hill says:
@ Kirk. When I worked on the Natural Resources Crew, there were 7 of us working to restore over 120 acres of woodlands. We cleaned up more messes than you could possibly imagine - entire days cleaning up areas that looked like a condom factory and malt liquor factory got together and exploded. Did we try to clean up every mess? Absolutely not. We could easily have spent all day every day doing clean up and never restore a square foot of the park. Triage has always been necessary. I highly recommend that anyone on this forum who is upset by messes in the park get in touch with the volunteer office. The park staff and volunteer community are a pleasure to work with and they could really use your help.
Jan. 8, 2012, 2:17 pm
Queen of the Click from Bay Ridge says:

It's sad that Natalie O'neil thinks this is a laughing matter. Her article made the homeless people lose the only home they had and all their possessions.

I guess compassion for others went out the door in 2011. More compassion was present for the geese than for homeless PEOPLE. Did we forget that they were people?
Jan. 8, 2012, 3:27 pm
Josef from Clinton Hill says:
UmadBro is clearly a punk trying to get a rise out of folks, and the same with Deb Lynne.

It is clear that the park is not intended for homeless people to live in.

However it is also clear that since homeless people are still living there, more needs to be done to make sure that everyone in our society has the minimum required for adequate survival.

Our society is affluent enough that we could easily make sure no one starves or lives on the street while still maintaining incentives to work/be productive through salary/wage differentials.

As such, I move that these individuals be provided with counseling and housing, and that the more competent ones be offered positions (as per Annie from Prospect Park Southwest's suggestion) as groundskeepers.
Jan. 9, 2012, 11:44 am
Karen from Prospect Lefferts says:
@AB-
I agree with you. If people want to complain, perhaps they can lend a hand and help out the situation.

Don't find fault, Find a remedy (Henry Ford)
Jan. 9, 2012, 11:50 am
Karen from Prospect Lefferts says:
@PS-
I was referring to helping the park deal with cleaning up some of the mess.
Jan. 9, 2012, 4:35 pm

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