MANCHESTER, NH – It’s 5:30 p.m. at Bronstein Park, and Day 1 of the new restrictions – prohibiting the public from being there during school hours – has expired. There are at least 20 people milling around under the trees, or sitting on benches, most of them regulars at the park. In the past hour two people have been transported by ambulance – one for an overdose, the other for an asthma attack.
“This is the shit we go through every day,” says one neighbor who lives across the street from the park. “Every day.”
She and her daughter and grandchildren have seen more than they want to see. In the nine years she’s lived there, the problems have gone from tolerable to unrelenting.
It’s dragging the whole neighborhood surrounding the park down, she says.
“It used to be we had to call all the time for what was going on at the abandoned house over there,” she said, pointing toward 269 Hanover St.
It is a boarded-up house next to Cumberland Farms and is marked with a red X. There is trash all over the place – clothing, debris, an old pizza box and food wrappers scattered about. She says people are in the house all the time. Even though police have been out more lately to investigate, it hasn’t stopped them.
“Last year was bad, but this year has been the worst. We’ve never seen it like this,” said the woman, who asked that her name not be published. “Are you kidding? I’m afraid they’d kill me if they knew I was talking to you.”
Another woman, who joins them regularly on the front steps to watch the action at the park, says her 4-year-old great-grandson used to be able to play in the park.
“We were over there last summer and he came running over to me, ‘Nana, Nana,” and he was holding a hypodermic needle in his hands. I slapped it out of his hand and told him it was dirty. We haven’t gone back,” she said.
It’s 7 p.m. They have just called the police to return to the park for a fight.
“The police were just here for an overdose. Now there are a bunch of people fighting. It’s out of control,” she said.
The woman’s daughter explains that they moved to New Hampshire from Methuen, Mass., to get away from similar problems.
“It’s sad, but I actually felt safer in Methuen,” says the daughter. “I leave my house at 5:45 a.m. for work, and today I walked up to Cumberland Farms for coffee and three guys were sitting on the porch at that house next to the store and asked me for a dollar, because they’re homeless. I told them to go get a job.”
Her mother points to a side porch on a nearby house that is surrounded by trees.
“See that? People sleep there. And back there?” she says, pointing toward the street behind her house. “There are whores there all the time. Once they do their thing, they’re over here buying drugs,” she said.
They point out a dilapidated camper that has been parking along side Bronstein Park all summer.
When asked about it yesterday, a police officer said as long as the camper keeps relocating, there’s not much they can do about it.
“It’s there every day. People are in and out of the trailer, and I figure it’s not to use the bathroom,” she says.
Last year there was a young couple living at the park with an infant.
“They came over to my house for help, so I took the baby inside and warmed up the formula, and changed the baby’s diaper, but I wouldn’t let them in. What else could I do? It was an infant,” she said.
The women point out that the people who frequent the park always have young children in tow – from kids in strollers to young adolescents on bikes and scooters. They say they wonder why no one from the city’s youth services seems to notice.
“I’d like to see the police clean things up here,” she said. “I have nothing against the cops. Maybe 90 percent of them are trying. But I see them come through here all the time, and yet nothing changes. They know what’s going on – drug dealers, prostitutes, and all the overdoses.”
It has only been about 20 minutes since police left the park following the fight call, when they notice one of the women who was involved in the fight collapses in the park. They call police again.
They watch as another woman kneels down and pounds on the woman’s chest in a frantic effort to administer CPR until a police officer arrives, who assists until an ambulance arrives.
The woman is whisked away.
“We watched her get out of a white truck and then just collapse. She must have done some kind of drug. They didn’t waste any time here – they used paddles on her chest, to shock her, then loaded her up and took her away,” the woman said.
“They were all doing whatever it was she took – we saw someone with a backpack behind that statue there, who was giving out something, so there will be more calls tonight,” she said. “I can’t watch anymore. I have to get to bed so I can get up for work. It never stops here.”
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