Seed of doubt: Citing plant thefts, city will not use solar panels in Bay Ridge park

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Associated Press / Mark Lennihan

They’re not taking it lightly.

The city will not install solar panels on an under-renovation Bay Ridge park building, because a rash of summertime plant thefts has Parks officials fearing someone will steal the power generators, according to members of Community Board 10.

“We suggested solar. They said they fear that solar panels would be stolen,” chairwoman Doris Cruz said in a report during the group’s Dec. 19 general board meeting.

Plant vandalism has taken root in Bay Ridge over the last year. In June, Owl’s Head Park was hit by a string of rose-bush heists, and flower-pot bashers struck Fifth Avenue in July. Most recently, vandals have been plaguing the Narrows Botanical Gardens in Shore Road Park near 71st Street.

Officials in charge of refurbishing the Shore Road Park field house say it is better to run a $500,000 gas line to the building, rather than installing clean solar technology — which is often more costly at first but can eventually pay for itself by offsetting utility costs — because the gadgets might attract thieves, according to several members of Community Board 10.

A Parks Department spokeswoman refuted the notion that plant thefts influenced the decision and said that the gas line would be more cost-effective than solar — though she would not provide the price of the panels.

But Community Board members are under the impression that city workers are bristling at the panels specifically because of bush bandits.

“The solar panel theft concern is specific to Narrows Botanical Garden and other incidents of vandalism there,” said Community Board 10 district manager Josephine Beckman. “People have taken bushes and fences.”

The Parks Department began experimenting with solar just last year and has already put sun-collectors on two buildings — the Red Hook Recreation Center and a structure in Manhattan. Panels at neither site have been stolen or vandalized, the spokeswoman said.

It’s a shame that the city is allowing a few rose-bush rustlers to dictate policy, one local said.

“I think something sustainable is a great idea and I don’t really see how stealing bushes translates into stealing solar panels,” said Bay Ridgite Doreen Esposito. “The Parks Department shouldn’t let some punks stealing plants bully them into not doing something.”

Reach reporter Caroline Spivack at cspivack@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2523. Follow her on Twitter @carolinespivack.