Civic leaders and residents of Rosedale clashed with state Assemblywoman Michelle Titus (D-Far Rockaway) and political candidate Jaques Leandre last week as they tried to piece together how one of their family events at Brookville Park had spiraled out of control and littered the greenspace.
Members of the Queens Coalition for Parks and Greenspaces and the Rosedale Civic Association demanded answers from the politicians and the other co-sponsors of the Aug. 22 family day picnic at the park during a meeting Sept. 2 after alcohol was served during the afternoon and evening celebration and garbage was scattered for nearly one square block.
“If this was supposed to be a family day, then we are in trouble,” said Fred Kress, president of the Queens Coalition.
Brookville Park Manager Mark Edwards said an application permit for the family day picnic was submitted by Eric DeBerry, Titus’ husband, and it stated there would be 300 people attending.
When Edwards arrived the next morning to inspect the damage, which required extra city Parks Department crews, he was confronted by DeBerry and another organizer who screamed at him and demanded their deposit back.
“They said the party got out of control,” Edwards recalled. “These two gentlemen felt they did nothing wrong.”
Leandre, who is running against incumbent City Councilman James Sanders (D-Laurelton) in the Democratic primary next week, arrived at the meeting an hour late and said he heard about the litter and called DeBerry and the other man to go to the park the next morning to sort things out. He said he was appalled to hear about the incident and pledged to help the community rectify the situation.
“I would not expose my wife and children to that,” he said
Martha Butler of Titus’ office said she never saw the tent where the alcohol was served or the garbage, which contained several empty beer bottles and sexually suggestive postcards with scantily clad women. Although Kress and other community members took pictures of the litter and the confrontation between Edwards and DeBerry, Butler questioned whether the mess was caused by her office’s party.
“You think we would have sat there and let what happened happen?” she asked.
“Apparently you did,” responded Rosedale Civic member Paul Mader.
Titus arrived at the meeting more than an hour later, allegedly after Butler called her during the session, according to several community members, and disputed Edwards’ account of his meeting with her husband the morning after.
She suggested it was another party that trashed the park, but Edwards said that was impossible since the park was closed.
“It was not another party, it was an extension of the party from the daytime,” the park manager said.
Suzette Wilkins of Valley Stream, L.I., told the community members the event was initially created three years ago by her family and friends as a memorial to her husband, Vaughn, a Rosedale resident who was killed in an auto accident. During the second year, one of her friends, party promoter June Baloon, wanted to make the party bigger and called Titus’ office to help sponsor it and get permits.
For this year’s celebration, Wilkins said she only helped organize the area for the children and the other sponsors took over the remaining parts of the party. She said she was shocked when she saw a tent advertising “open bar, ladies only,” during the celebration, which was scheduled to last from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
“I did address it and they said it was taken off,” Wilkins said of the sign.
The Long Island resident said she did not meet Titus that day and never met Leandre and apologized to the residents for the damage the party caused.
Kress and his fellow civic members accepted her apology, but he said he was going to pursue the matter with the Parks Department and possibly the state Assembly. He said Wilkins’ somber memorial was hijacked by the sponsors and he called for them to be banned from the park permanently.