A pair of pocket parks on New Bedford's Acushnet Avenue in Ward 2 has been given a new lease on life, at least for now, while officials determine whether they are worth saving. The parks, located at Nye Street and Phillips Avenue, have been trouble spots for police and residents alike for several years.

Ward 2 City Councilor Maria Giesta asked her colleagues last month to support an effort to try and sell the parks for commercial development or some other use. Giesta and Councilor-at-Large Deb Coelho, who lives in the neighborhood, say the pocket parks are frequented by undesirables as soon as the sun goes down. Both women report that open and lewd behavior, prostitution, and drug dealing make the parks dangerous and drive away residents who might otherwise use them.

Giesta toured the pocket parks on Tuesday with a group that included New Bedford Police Chief Joseph Cordeiro, Deputy Chief Paul Oliveria, and fellow Councilors Coelho and Naomi Carney. Councilor-at-Large Ian Abreu joined in via Facetime video conference. Giesta called into my Wednesday program to discuss the parks.

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Giesta said police questioned neighbors about what they have experienced living near the pocket parks. She said Chief Cordeiro committed to increasing police patrols after dark and agreed to consider other ways to make the parks safe and free of crime.

Giesta said she is willing to wait until the fall before asking the Mitchell Administration to sell the park properties to give enforcement a chance to work. Let's hope increased patrols last more than a few weeks.

In the meantime, Giesta needs to determine whether the neighbors believe the parks are worth saving and whether they would utilize them if they are. There is no sense defending the pocket parks if no one wants them.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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