Politics

City Council to address discarded needles at Clifford Park as officer pricked during cleanup event

“Because of the human waste and the needles, the park sits empty most of the time.”

Marla Smith, a community member who has been in the neighborhood for 28 years, displays a jar of dirty needles she collected in Clifford Park in 2021. Nathan Klima for The Boston Globe

A push is underway to have the Boston City Council address the issue of improperly discarded syringes, trash, and human waste at Clifford Park in Roxbury. The move comes as a Boston police officer was pricked by a needle during a cleanup at the park over the weekend. 

Boston City Councilor Erin Murphy filed an order for a hearing to address the conditions at Clifford Park, which will be reviewed at the council’s meeting on Wednesday.

Murphy, who was at the park cleanup Saturday where the officer was stuck with a syringe, said she filed the order before the incident. 

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She said she wants to see what more the city can do to support the park and surrounding community.

“Because of the human waste and the needles, the park sits empty most of the time,” she said. “So we need to make sure that kids are safe in every neighborhood. So we definitely want to make sure we as a council are directing the resources there.”

According to Murphy, the officer who was pricked by the needle was at the park as a member of the detail for interim Suffolk County District Attorney Kevin Hayden, who came to the cleanup event. She said the officer was pricked by a needle that had been picked up by volunteers around the park’s play structure and he was taken by ambulance to a local hospital. 

Boston police confirmed the officer was transported by ambulance after stepping on the needle around 10:34 a.m. 

For years, the community around Clifford Park has been raising concerns about improperly discarded syringes, one of the impacts of being near the epicenter of the region’s overlapping addiction, homelessness, and mental health crises. 

Domingos DaRosa, an activist who has been vocal about the issue, frequently posts videos and photos on social media of the conditions at the park, where he coaches a youth football team.

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“The park is a biohazard wasteland!” he wrote on Sunday.

Starting Monday, the city is enhancing cleanup at the park, which is already swept twice a day between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. by the city’s mobile sharps team, seven days a week through a partnership with the Newmarket Business District. The city’s recovery outreach team also canvases the neighborhood, prioritizing Clifford Park and nearby schools by 6:30 a.m. 

A city spokesperson said the recent incident at the park “highlights the urgency of addressing the crisis in this area through equity-focused, public health-led policies that address the needs of people experiencing homelessness, substance use disorders, and behavioral health issues.”

“Each person within this population has unique needs and requires resources from a continuum of services, such as health care, behavioral health care, substance use disorder treatment, harm reduction, and more,” the statement continued. “The City of Boston is constantly working to connect them with the appropriate services to support their health and wellbeing. The City is also trying to make sure that we are providing a safe space that the neighborhood can enjoy.”

Murphy’s order, filed with her colleague Frank Baker, calls for the City Council to hold a hearing to address the ongoing issues at Clifford Park and to discuss preventative steps with representatives from the mayor’s office, public health commision, police department, parks and recreation, public works, and community leaders. 

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It’s not that city workers aren’t doing their jobs, she stressed, but rather the situation just needs more attention. 

“We on the council have the power to assign more staff if needed to a need like this,” she said. “So that’s definitely what I want to do on the council. Not just bring awareness, but also use what power we have to support this neighborhood.”

She said the officer’s injury over the weekend highlights the “obvious dangers” children face at the park. 

“We definitely have to clean it more often and address the fact that the epicenter of Mass. and Cass is not far and that there are definitely people who are wandering a little bit away from the Mass. and Cass area and sleeping and doing drugs in the playground,” she said. “I’ve been by on a different day and there have been people sleeping on the slide or under the swings. So the neighborhood really does not have — that playground and that park is not the way it should be for their community.”

Read the order below:

Clifford Park Order by dialynn dwyer on Scribd

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