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Residents Sound Off On Illegal Barbecues In City Parks: 'The Law Should Be Enforced Just Like Any Law'

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Illegal fireworks aren't the only nuisance popping up across the city.

Some residents say illegal barbecues were out of hand this weekend. They say with the Parks Department budget slashed, it's only getting worse, CBS2's Lisa Rozner reported Sunday night.

Roxanne Delgado showed CBS2 the charcoal, grill boxes, and food that was left behind from illegal barbecues at Pelham Parkway Park.

"Uncooked chicken with maggots on it. I pick up charcoal. I pick up grease," Delgado said.

"It's a big crowd all the time," added area resident Gloria Russo.

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Over the last few weeks, photos and videos show people pulling up to the park and firing up the grill they brought with them.

Illegal NYC barbecues
(Photo: Friends of Pelham Parkway)

"We can smell the lighter fluids that come into our apartments," resident Evelyn Rosa said.

"They tend to dump their charcoal right on the tree pit and that dehydrates the trees and kills the tree," Delgado added.

Residents said hundreds of people came out during the July 4th weekend.

City law prohibits open fires, ground fires, and propane, which Rozner saw first hand Sunday in Bronx Park East. So she asked one person if they were worried about getting a ticket. The person said no.

First-time violators face a $50 fine, but the Department of Parks & Recreation and the NYPD told CBS2 no one received a summons this weekend.

"We've repeatedly asked for police enforcement and Parks enforcement. The law should be enforced just like any law that they have on the books, should be enforced," Bronx resident Marcia Lewis said.

"You wanna walk in here and light up a cigarette, you get a ticket for it," Community Board 11 member Dominick Schiano said. "In particular, the Bronx has more cases of asthmatic people than I think any other borough."

"You can cook it in your house and bring it outside," Fordham resident Emily Monge said.

Barbecuing is allowed in 60 designated locations citywide, including Pelham Bay, which is not far from the park.

Community members shared an email with CBS2 from the Bronx parks commissioner. She said that parks is lacking summer staff, citing it has been cut dramatically.

The Parks Department said it has almost 60 officers in the Bronx that do enforcement, but instead of issuing summonses they first try to educate the violators. Parks later issued the following statement to CBS2:

"During the crisis, it's become strikingly clear that parks are critical infrastructure and we have seen a significant increase in usage as the city continues to open up. Our Parks staff's continued service on the frontlines through the crisis demonstrates how committed we are to keeping up our city's parks for the health and safety of all New Yorkers. With the significant increase of use, there has been a significant amount of trash left behind -- we must all do our part."

Community Board 11 member Valerie Babb understands families wanting to have a good time, and just wants Parks to focus on cleanup.

"This year I haven't seen any people coming out from the Parks Department and handing out black garbage bags," Babb said. "We're in the middle of a pandemic. We have to b especially clean now."

Rozner did see one Parks truck Sunday, but as one of the barbecuing families told her no city staff approached them, so they don't think they were doing anything wrong.

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