And that elephant is the growing number of people who have taken up permanent residence at Forest Parkway.
It’s important to note that Woodhaven is a caring community. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, residents of this community donated money, supplies and clothing, as well as spending tremendous amounts of time sorting and delivering these donations.
Residents of this community have raised money for various good causes. When families have been burnt out of their homes, Woodhaven residents responded. When money was needed for the special needs division of our local Little League, residents reached into their pockets and gave big.
There have been coat drives, food drives and toy drives to benefit the homeless, and they always do well here in Woodhaven because the residents care about others.
What’s happening on Forest Parkway is something very different and it’s not uncaring or insensitive to point it out. Nor is it uncaring or insensitive to ask that something be done before it gets much worse.
Residents who live around Forest Parkway have shared stories about what they’ve witnessed, in plain daylight, steps away from the bank and the post office. They have seen people urinating. They have seen people defecating. They have seen people having sexual relations.
How are you supposed to walk your kids past that?
The post office recently cleaned out its front yard and they found a lot of trash and human feces among the grass and bushes.
The bank was having issues with people sleeping in the lobby, so the doors were locked after closing, inconveniencing residents who needed to withdraw cash.
It’s not uncaring or insensitive to point out how completely unhealthy this is. Nor is it uncaring or insensitive to point out how this has turned Woodhaven’s town square from something beautiful into a squalid, smelly eyesore.
One local resident who retired not that long ago found that he enjoyed sitting at Forest Parkway, enjoying the sunlight and speaking with friends and neighbors that passed by.
Not anymore. He no longer sits at Forest Parkway and his friends and neighbors try their best to avoid it. Seriously, can you blame them?
I’ve contacted the good people at Breaking Ground a few times. They operate a drop-in center on Atlantic Avenue and they have been very responsive. I have seen their van down there frequently, reaching out to the people who now call Forest Parkway their home.
But the laws are such that the city has very little leverage when it comes to people on the street. Everyone’s hands are tied, and so these people remain in place.
I agree with this in principal, as I don’t think any of us want to live in a place where the government can just whisk you off the streets.
But some of these people have been around here for so long that their faces are familiar to us. We’ve seen what living on the streets has done to them. They are aging rapidly, the various physical and mental health issues that come with living on the streets taking its toll.
Asking that something be done to help these people is not uncaring or insensitive. Leaving them on the streets to slowly rot away is.
If someone was standing on the tracks in front of an approaching train they would be removed and given the help they need. These people are in just as much danger. Just because it isn’t as tangible as a speeding train doesn’t mean the danger isn’t bearing down on them.
And if something drastic isn’t done, we won’t be talking about the dirt or the squalor. We’ll be talking about how someone lost their life. We’ll be talking about how someone was left to die on Forest Parkway.
If that’s the caring and sensitive approach, we’re in a ton of trouble.