As Forest Hills resident Steve Melnick drove by a park on Queens Boulevard and 67th Road recently, he noticed something strange.
The many senior citizens who congregated in the park to socialize, play some cards or just take in the sun would all crowd together on two benches at the end of the park, leaving the rest of the benches wide open.
Upon investigation, Melnick, of Forest Hills, discovered the abandoned benches were empty for good reason: They were covered with a quarter-inch thick layer of pigeon waste.
“When I saw all those seniors huddled in one area, I knew we couldn’t have that,” said Melnick, who organized a clean-up event at the Forest Hills park Saturday morning.
Members of the Queens Boulevard Restoration Group, which Melnick helped to found in 2003, and other area residents spent a couple hours scraping off the bird droppings, repainting the benches a fresh shade of green, sweeping debris from the park floor and repainting the light poles and garbage cans.
Two hours after they began, the park was reborn as a place where Forest Hills residents would be happy to gather — and sit — at all ends of the park.
The pigeon droppings have become a problem because many neighborhood residents, including some who go to the park, feed the birds, City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) and state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) said. Both legislators attended the cleanup.
“People need to know they shouldn’t feed the pigeons because that’s why they’re having this problem,” Koslowitz said.
Koslowitz, who has allocated city funds to plant several trees in the park, said she hopes to install a sign in Russian that says not to feed the birds because many Russian-speaking immigrants spend time at the park.
“We need a sign that states there is a fine imposed for feeding the birds,” Melnick said.
Additionally, nearby stores should seal their awnings so birds cannot gather inside, Melnick said.
Forest Hills residents Alice Morales and her daughter, Lina Morales, said they were more than happy to help clean the park.
“I always encourage my daughter to volunteer and give back to the community,” Alice Morales said. “We used to volunteer at St. John’s Hospital, but since it closed down we’ve been looking for other places to volunteer.”
Herb Chain, a Forest Hills resident and president of the Queens Symphony Orchestra’s board of directors, said he was thrilled to see a large turnout for Saturday’s event.
“All it takes is one person to push it and organize it and people will show up to better their community,” Chain said.
Melnick said he was especially pleased to receive support from the surrounding community, including a free breakfast for the volunteers from Queens Bagel Town. Florist Hills Nursery provided the beach grass volunteers planted.
Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson
©2010 Community News Group
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