Residents of Bayside, Queens, insist that they really did take good care of the six acres of parkland tucked behind their homes along 207th Street. For years, that narrow strip along the Clearview Expressway between 23rd and 26th avenues had been a place where neighbors played baseball, rode bikes and walked their dogs.
And because the city had abandoned the property, area residents regularly mowed the grass, planted trees and shrubs, cleared walkways and in some instances built garden sheds on it. But when officials at the city's Parks Department finally got wind of what was going on, they cried foul.
In May 2010, the Parks Department sent out a blizzard of letters demanding that homeowners "give back the land" and remove any and all fixtures placed on city property. Outraged residents protested, but in the end, after a heated two-year battle, the city prevailed.
Now the Parks Department is hoping to build on that success, using it as a model to go on the offensive against what turns out to be a surprisingly widespread problem in the city. Currently, the agency, which oversees the city's 1,700 parks, has 89 cases of "incursions" on its plate. Queens, a borough noted for its green space, leads the pack with 49. In addition, there are 22 active cases in Staten Island, 14 in Brooklyn and even four in Manhattan. Only the Bronx has no such cases.
Meanwhile, the land on which the city triumphed over area residents sits vacant, and there are no plans to develop it for public use.
I gotta wonder if the release of this statement is just a coincidence.