A Harlem youth football team is encountering more than just turf on the practice field. They're also encountering mounds of garbage and drug paraphernalia littered throughout the area, and it's given parents cause for concern. NY1's Susan Jhun filed the following "NY1 For You" report.
Jennifer Davis, whose son plays for the nationally ranked Harlem Jets football team, enjoys watching her son's football practice but is concerned about the environment surrounding his play.
"On any given night, there will be piles of garbage that meet us at the entrance of our field and on the field at the outskirts of the field, and ever since Hurricane Sandy, we've also experienced a big rat problem," she says.
"Rats everywhere, trash," said Jessica Domenech, a mother of players on the Harlem Jets.
Parents of players on the team say their home field at Harlem River Park has become unsuitable for their children.
"We've seen condom wrappers," Davis says. "We've seen hypodermic needles."
Parents say a more pressing problem than the garbage is the human element that surrounds the park.
"We don't want to appear to be less than compassionate for the folks that are homeless, but some of the behavior that they're currently exhibiting is unacceptable in terms of the drug paraphernalia and all of that stuff that's kind of being left on the ground," says Jamel Wright, president and founder of the Harlem Jets.
"It brings an element around our kids that we don't necessarily think is safe," Davis says. "There's drug use, soliciting. We've even had people kind of walking through our practices, during practices and games, on the field."
Organizers and parents say they've called the city and police numerous times, but the problem persists.
NY1 For You called the New York City Police Department and the Parks Department, and a spokesman from the Parks Department said that the agency cleans the area every day. He said the Parks Department is working with the NYPD and the Department of Homeless Services to increase outreach and enforcement related to the homeless population in the park.
A spokesman from the NYPD told NY1 that arrests are up 20.5 percent year to date in the area. He went on to say that a new commanding officer in the area is aware of the situation and is increasing patrols in the park.