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Parks Department’s new broom promises to sweep clean

Kevin Jeffery is the new borough commissioner for the Parks Department.
Photo by NYC Parks Department

Litterbugs, take heed!

The Parks Department’s new borough commissioner, Kevin Jeffery, is eager to tackle the dirtiest issue in the borough’s green spaces: huge swaths of trash and piles of burnt coals.

“We need to respond to the challenges of higher usage,” said Jeffery, who had his first day on the job on Monday. “We need to change the culture when it comes to littering — get people to think differently about it.”

Jeffery said the litter was a byproduct of the “phenomenal” amounts of visitors to parks this year, which came as a result of the hot weather and the ailing economy that forced people to skip a summer vacation.

The visitors were phenomenal, and so was their trash.

This past summer, parkgoers cried foul when it was revealed that not one ticket for littering had been issued in Prospect Park in the last two years, despite their numerous complaints of mounting garbage.

Jeffery, who has worked for the Parks Department for 31 years, including as a supervisor of both the Urban Park Rangers and the Parks Enforcement Patrol, cautioned that enforcement would not completely solve the trash problem.

“There is no way the Department of Sanitation or the Parks Department can manage it without a change in the way the public looks at littering,” he said. “At the end of the day, we’re not going to have a Parks Enforcement Patrol officer at every bend, turn or park pathway.”

Jeffery added that the controversy surrounding barbecuing in parks was also on his to-do list.

“I want to find an appropriate balance between where we’re permitting barbecuing and where we’re not,” said Jeffery. “Many people don’t have the luxury of backyards for a grill — barbecuing is a national pastime, but we have to preserve park space, also.”

The longtime resident of Crown Heights will certainly have his work cut out for him when it comes to the flaming-hot issue of barbecues: both Prospect Park and Owl’s Head Park were overwhelmed by irresponsible grillmasters this past season.

Jeffery said that Parks Commissioners dedicate much of their time coordinating efforts with the NYPD and parks enforcement to ensure safety and cleanliness in the parks, and also raise money from elected officials. The commissioners preside over renovations and improvements to parks, as well.

Jeffery’s predecessor, Julius Spiegel, described the job a little less delicately.

“I spend most of my time lobbying politicians for money,” Spiegel said after announcing his retirement earlier this year. “I go and beg for money. That’s my job.”

Jeffery probably won’t be running into Spiegel around the parks very much, either, as the former commish probably will be indoors.

“I don’t know how much I’m going to use [parks],” Spiegel famously told us. “I never did — I’d see too many things that pissed me off.”

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