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Residents blast park order

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Bayside resident John Geiyer has fond memories of the parkland that surrounds his home.

The six-acre Clearview Park is tucked between the Clearview Expressway and 26th Avenue in Bayside. It is where he played as a child, his son shot basketball and he married his wife.

Geiyer's neighbors have similar feelings about the triangular park adjacent to the Clearview Park Golf Course that extends behind a row of houses on 207th Street. The homeowners, whose backyards feed into the park, have erected sheds, benches and walkways on portions of the parkland.

For decades the park has remained undeveloped.

But now the city Parks Department, which acquired the land in 1965, claims the homeowners have "encroached and damaged city property" and want the land back. It has given the homeowners 30 days to remove any fixtures placed on Parks property. The homeowners are upset because they say they have been the ones, not the city, to care for the land since the 1960s.

"They did nothing on it for 45 years. They should not have any say on it," said Geiyer, who serves as acting president of the Clearview Civic Association.

Parks contends the homeowners had no right to build on the property in the first place.

"Although it's behind their home and has been undeveloped for some time, it doesn't give anyone the legal authority to go and decide to use it or claim it," Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski said.

According to Geiyer, who has lived in his home on 207th Street since the 1950s, the park was left over from the building of the Clearview Expressway in 1963. At that time, the land was completely bare until members of the neighborhood began to plant trees and shrubbery, Geiyer said, asserting that every tree or shrub in the park was planted by a member of the neighborhood.

"What they're saying now is we should have left it as a barren strip of dirt for 45 years," Geiyer said. "I don't think that's the way a park is supposed to be."

In 2003, a portion of the parkland was used as a dirt processing site for a storm sewer project. The project was eventually halted by Parks because the contractor had misused its permit.

Geiyer asked local officials for help, including City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside).

"If you're on parkland, you're on city property whether or not the homeowner is allowed access or use of it," Avella said.

Lewandowski said Parks has no plans to develop the property or construct a fence, adding that she is open to meeting with homeowners to discuss the current situation.

"I'm trying to be a good neighbor," she said, "but my role is to protect the public property that I've been entrusted to take care of."

Reach reporter Katy Gagnon by e-mail at kgagnon@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300 Ext 174.

Posted 6:40 pm, October 10, 2011
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