MADISON – Corporal Wiltshire Square is a small public square located at Avenue P and Ocean Parkway, right on Kings Highway. When the weather is cold, the park is nearly empty. But when it’s good outside, it is often occupied with people breaking bottles, shouting profanities, urinating, and littering throughout the night, residents say.
About four years ago, one neighbor noticed that drunks started hanging out at the square. Since then, he’s seen the ground filled with plastic bags, cardboard, empty plates, and bottles. Since August, he’s seen people publically urinate as well, including one who defecated right in front of him near a parked vehicle. He noted that people hang out and make lots of noise during random parts of the day, though it is much more noticeable during the nighttime when people in the buildings surrounding it are sleeping.
“It’s become disgusting, to say the least,” the neighbor said. “Residents began refraining from hanging out in the park because of what it has become.”
The public square includes a couple of benches and four trees. In 1922, the City of New York acquired this property as part of a condemnation proceeding for the expansion of Kings Highway. In 1928, it was designated a public place and was named after Joyce Kilmer, a poet who was deployed to Europe in World War 1. In 1935, a new Kilmer Square opened up at Kings Highway and Quentin Road between East 12th and 13th Streets, so, in 1939, the City Council decided to rename this Square after Corporal Clifford C. Wiltshire, who lived on Avenue P near Coney Island Avenue. The square last underwent a $59,333 renovation funded by Mayor Rudy Giuliani back in 2001, which added a yardarm flagpole, new paving, granite edging, plantings, and some benches.
Another resident told us she wants to take her kids there to sit and relax but is not able to do so because of the drunk neighbors.
“My kids are stuck at home now anyway because of the pandemic and online learning and I always want to take them out to the park, as it is right in front of my home. But there are empty liquor bottles and drunk people sitting on benches even in the morning,” she said. “Of course homeless people deserve this park as well, but no one should be publically drinking here. Or urinating. I’ve seen people urinate.”
Council Member Chaim Deutsch has spoken to NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver about the issues at hand. According to his office, he is planning a joint operation with the New York City Department of Homeless Services, the NYPD, and the Parks police to encourage those who are homeless to enter into shelters.
“Unfortunately homelessness has been increasing across the city, but we are fortunate that our district has been minimally impacted thus far,” Deutsch’s office told Bklyner. “That’s primarily due to the Councilman’s extremely proactive efforts with regard to homelessness.”
“Department of Homeless Services is not permitted to force anyone into a shelter,” they continued, “but when they make repeated contact with individuals, they are more likely to have a positive response.”
Since 2008 though, the square has passed all of the inspection by NYC Parks. The last inspection was on June 15, and its overall condition and cleanliness were both labeled “acceptable.”
According to NYC Parks, this summer they had 371 fewer people doing maintenance compared to last year in Brooklyn, impacting their ability to do their normal upkeep of park facilities. Additionally, the budget for NYC Parks was cut by $84 million to $503 million, precluding them to hire seasonal staff this year.
“The safety of our parkgoers is our top priority, and we have been working to address issues at Corporal Wiltshire Square. The site is cleaned daily, and our Parks Enforcement Patrol has been closely monitoring the area,” the Press Officer at NYC Parks Anessa Hodgson said. “We are also working with City Council Member Chaim Deutsch and the Department of Homeless Services to provide assistance to those who are homeless as being homeless in a park is not a crime.”