Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Prospect Park's litter

Pretty, isn't it? Not much litter in sight, is there?

Lunch in the park, on a bench on one of the main drags. We were sorry that there are no benches off the main drags. It was cold, and we tried to remember all the picnics we've had together. Many of them have been cold, which is interesting. But that's another post, I think.

Afterwards, I wanted to walk into the woods to see whether there were any oyster mushrooms or birds around. I knew we would find the solitary men...

But I did not expect to find the massive amounts of litter. I mean, there's been litter before, there is always litter back here, away from the masses. But this was in frequent, recent clusters that I've not seen before.  Most of it is the paraphernalia of sex, as usual: wrappers, wipes, used condoms; I spared you some of the more gruesome pictures. Then lots of empty liquor bottles, lots of plain old 'reglar' litter - plastic, cups...It's not OK.

So one turns a blind eye, and proceeds?

I think not. I'm tired of it.

So I am considering a plan of action. Against the act of littering. Loiterers may loiter, if they must. But they may not litter.

I use the park, I love the woods. They are described on the Prospect Park website as 'Brooklyn's only forest.' Because they are.

How to end the littering? For all I know this conversation is as old as the park itself. But I sense that these areas have been deliberately forgotten, neglected, turned from. And it shows.

 As we left, above the Vale of Cashmere, we saw these.

And these.

And those. They were lovely.

And that is the way it should be.

What does the Parks Department think? What does everyone else think? We will find out.

I'll be back. But first I'm going to get help: I am reaching out to local bloggers*. And if you want to help, get in touch.

Click here for my Open Letter

[2012 Update. Wasn't that a long time ago? Visit The Prospect Park Litter Mob to play catch up.]

Previous Prospect Park posts:

The Park via Sackett Street


  1. Your pictures show the worst of times and the best of times. I can't help but feel terribly sad about a seemingly large group of people who are desperate for sex, enough to be out in the cold "lonely" park, likely with strangers. Perhaps signs that say, "It may be safe sex but how smart is it to leave your DNA?".

  2. Good for you for taking action! I have found that it just takes one person to get the ball rolling and then others join in.

    I abhoar the way so many people litter and deface Mother Nature. We are ruining her as fast as we can.

  3. I cannot say exactly at what point the woods became dangerous in the European mind, but maybe it had something to do with Christianity's sky god, who clearly favored the open air to the dark of woods.

    Since then, perception has it that those who inhabit the woods are criminal if men and if a woman, a witch! And so the woods, even deep in a city, is emptied, but for men behaving pathologically.

    Which is a shame because Prospect's woods are way cooler on warm days and low in mosquitoes. A nice place to have lunch, relax, read a book.

    The best way to get the woods back is to be present, as you are. I love the woods, but I am usually turned off by the creep factor, the pacing, the strange behavior enough to move along. The zeitgeist of the Midwood is sex, and I think park officials and police look the other way, keeping it off the streets by ceding the woods to this behavior.

    Are condoms biological waste? Cleaning up this area may require a couple of special precautions. That said, I don't think there is anything in there that I haven't already cleaned out of my garden. Maybe some "pack it in, pack it out" signs like those of the NP for the loiterers. Maybe not that wording.

    Gardening Prospect Park....

  4. Kan die mense nie net gaan seks he^ in hul huise nie? Okay, dalk het hul nie huise nie. Maar ek twyfel. Sug.

  5. Very sad, I wish you luck. Litter(ers) drive me crazy(er).

    Oh, too funny... the word verification for this post is forcomm.

  6. Excellent post,
    I would love to contact you via email. Let me know via reply if this is possible.

  7. Anne, I don't even know if these men are conscioulsy desperate. It's lifestyle, 'on the Down-low' - some of them leading straight lives out of the woods. Others who know about it (these woods are billed on websites as a great cruising ground)get their kicks from having sex with strangers.

    Phyllis - before you congratulate me, wait a few months :-)

    Frank - yes, being there is the best advice. And your slogan is hysterical.

    arcadia, ja nee, see above.

    Val, heheh.

    Mey - my contact details are in my profile pic on the blog, just click on the picture. Thanks.

  8. Sadly, there is an "out of sight-out of mind" mentality and it does seem to extend to some officials.
    Perhaps letters to Parks Depts. or newspapers might help?
    A (big, burly)French-speaking man on a bus chucked his unfinished lunch out of a bus window. Foil plate, plastic cutlery and gravy-out the window. And no one said a thing.
    But as I got off at my stop, I looked right at him and said:"Vous etes un cochon!"
    I doubt it would hit his conscience, but I was cross.

  9. Maybe this just needs management, as its unlikely to stop. "Poop and Scoop" was a successful campaign back for dog-walkers, back in the day.

    How about "Pick up after your pick-up"? And some trash bins nearby...

  10. You missed the little hill along Prospect Park Southwest where you can find oodles of little plastic zip lock baggies coated with white powedery residue, each about the size of a crack rock. They are always there, no matter what season, and always reappear sfter the area gets cleaned.

  11. Sadly NYC is not unique. We have a local park that is "known" for gay pick ups. I suspect that if I walked there tomorrow I could pretty much the same trash as you found at Prospect. I wish you luck and will support from afar.

  12. How about getting the parks department to install a couple of trash cans? Most folks will not litter if there is an available receptacle nearby. What I do find troubling is the undercurrent of homophobia here, especially in the comments. Forcomm? Was that really necessary?

  13. MIT - publicity will get some action, but possibly not enough that will last.

    Janet- yep, management is lacking.

    Anonymous 2 - if you come back, please leave your name. Trash cans are high on the list of what is needed, and I have seen previous discussions on the subject of litter where Parks say they don't have enough staff to empty additional cans. So we will see.

    I see no homophobia here, and if it lurks, it is unwelcome.

    Inevitably, since much of the litter I am talking about is the detritus of sex between men, the subject will arise. Denying that this is a well known cruising spot is to be deliberately obtuse.

    Some people may take the opportunity of venting their prejudices, which I will not tolerate, but I hope most people stick to the subject, which is people littering.

  14. Thank you for the beautiful pictures of the Vale. I'm a member of the Parks volunteer group that helps to take care of that area of the park and am always pleased when others appreciate it as much as we do.

    I'm also familiar with the kind of litter you refer to, alas. Although the Vale is not the cruising spot it used to be, we've picked up our share of condoms and lube packets, along with the more generic trash-- plastic bags, chicken bones, beer and liquor bottles, t-shirts, shoes..... Every Monday morning between mid-March and November at least a half-dozen volunteers fan out around the Vale with gloves, grabbers and trash bags to deal with the week's accumulation, before turning attention to sweeping, weeding, and other horticultural tasks. Cleaning up this kind of litter is very labor-intensive, and it's not just a shortage of trash cans; there can be as much litter behind the bench next to the trash can as in areas farther away.

    Parks has an active volunteer program and welcomes anyone who wants to get involved. Working in the park -- even on litter patrol -- is very satisfying; I recommend it. Here is the link:

  15. Thank you Margaret - from talking to parks employees, do you get a sense of what the official attitude might be towards the cruising grounds and its detritus?

  16. I commend you for bringing attention to this issue, but I wouldn't be so quick to blame the gay men that cruise this area. The woods, especially around the zoo and Flatbush Ave, have a busy after-dark trade in prostitution and it's not uncommon to see women ducking into the woods with their johns.

    FWIW, plenty of gay cruising grounds in public parks aren't sullied by such trash... the Ramble in Central Park is relatively clean and probably sees much more action than these woods. I wonder if there's a general culture of littering that is just reflecting the activities taking place here. New York tends to be a pretty filthy city and people have few qualms about throwing trash on the sidewalk, subway floor, or in the forest.

  17. I take your point Anonymous - I base my assumptions on who I see when I am there, and hitherto it has been guys. But I'm sure the place is hopping at night with greater variety. It's pretty well known as a cruising area for male pick ups, though; and the Ramble, you are right, is much cleaner. This is because there is more money to fund clean up for the high profile park. Prospect Park seems to be a poor cousin, here.


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