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Drug Use Rampant in Aqueduct Walk

By Michelle Martínez

Aqueduct Walk, a community park in the University Heights and Fordham neighborhoods of the Bronx, was New York City’s first linear park.  A tree-lined walkway offers welcome shade on hot summer days. However, the park has grown less inviting of late, filled with trash and needles. Once upon a time, this wasn’t the case. It was a lush area with tall trees and grass. Though there was some trash, it wasn’t nearly as filthy as now.

In the past two years, a group of drug dealers moved into the area. They mostly congregate in front of the building on 2541 Aqueduct Avenue. There is a whiteboard with drug prices placed in front of whatever car was parked in front of that building that day. The sign is posted early in the morning and only removed when police cars drive by.

According to the NYPD, 173 crimes have been committed in the 52nd Precinct as of March 2022. This data includes burglaries, murders, robberies, and grand larceny of motor vehicles. Specific park crime stats for the Aqueduct Walk show that there was one felony assault and one incident of grand larceny. More robberies and felony assaults occurred in 2020 compared to other years. However, these are just the crimes that were reported to the NYPD. Many others are not.

The Old Croton Aqueduct Trail was built between 1837 and 1842. It spanned 26.5 miles beginning at the New Croton Dam and ending in the Old Croton Reservoir. It enters New York City in Van Cortlandt Park and continues to Aqueduct Avenue then passes through University Avenue. The aqueduct provided clean water from the Croton River in Westchester Country. Before the construction of the trail, there wasn’t a good sewer system or clean water, and people began to get ill. This made the construction of the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail extremely important.

Designed by John B. Jervis, it used gravity to push the water along. At the time, the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail was praised for its innovative design. However, this changed years later when pipes were placed in homes providing clean water and sewer systems were properly functioning so there was no need for the old aqueduct. In 1955, this system was removed and converted into the trail we know today.

A visit to the park in April revealed signs of neglect and drug use. Upon entering the walk, a brief history is detailed on a sign next to two benches. Part of the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail lies beneath the Aqueduct Walk. On either side of the walk, brick walls were built to give support to the above ground level. Upon entering the walk, a brief history is detailed on a sign next to two benches. The long stretch of pavement has a black railing that protects people from falling off the steep cliff on each side. Though the railings’ purpose is to protect people from falling, it doesn’t really stop anyone from climbing up.

People pass by on bicycles while others push shopping carts. The trees past the railings are bare of leaves after losing their foliage during winter. However, some grass has started to grow back. Some of the trees have been cut down over the years, and the only thing that remains are the stumps. Trash is everywhere, on the grass, the dirt, the trees and spilling over the buildings further from the walk. Among the trash, needles are scattered in the grass making them hard to find. Some lay on the pavement with only the remains of the liquid they had inside.

A man in washed-out grey sweater and sweatpants climbed over the railing making his way towards the trees. He sat down in the dirt and rolled up his sleeves taking out a needle from his sweatpants in the process. Everyone that walks by could see him do this, but he doesn’t care. Neither do the people who see him. An older woman pulling a small purple shopping cart behind her just speeds up her stride when she sees him.

Dealers argue with clients to do the drugs somewhere away from their selling spot. So, the clients that can’t wait would make their way to Aqueduct Walk to do drugs because of the coverage the trees give during the summer. No matter how much the police are called in this area nothing is done about the drug dealing. Even when there is evidence of drugs and dealings in the area.

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