City extends closure of Ala Moana parks
Night shutdowns will last for two months after positive reviews
The city will continue closing Ala Moana Beach Park and Magic Island at night for two more months as it considers making the overnight closure permanent.
In a written statement released yesterday, city Parks Director Lester Chang said the city has received a lot of feedback from people who said the park feels cleaner and safer since the city started closing it at night. And they urge the city to make the practice permanent.
"It sucks, it just sucks," said Leinati Matautia, one of the park dwellers displaced by the overnight closure.
Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, who is in China to encourage investment in Hawaii and to tour Shanghai's mass transit system, was not available for comment.
City spokesman Bill Brennan said, "We notified the service providers and the churches who are working with the homeless people."
Advocates for the homeless are shocked and disappointed.
"I think this was a heartless decision," said the Rev. Bob Nakata.
The city said it will continue to allow displaced campers to temporarily use the grassy area next to Honolulu Police Department headquarters, known as Sister Roberta Derby Park.
But most of them have been sleeping in temporary shelters at Central Union Church and Kawaiaha'o Church. The leaders of both churches have said they can only accommodate the displaced people for the one month the city had originally planned the night closure.
"At this point in time, we are still going to go through April 30," said the Rev. Curtis Kekuna, Kawaiaha'o Church kahu.
The church has housed people in its meeting hall, which has been at or near its 100-person capacity. The hall and attached offices are scheduled to be torn down in June and need to be empty by the end of the month.
"I don't know what we're going to do," said the Rev. Don Hammond, Central Union Church interim pastor. "We don't mind shouldering our responsibility. It seems like the city is not doing the same."
The number of people sleeping in Central Union's Parish Hall has risen steadily from eight on the first night the church opened the shelter to 75 on Tuesday.
Campers have not used Sister Roberta Derby Park because last month's heavy rain made the grounds muddy. And they said the bathrooms were far away.
If the churches close their shelters at the end of the month, the grassy area next to HPD headquarters will be their only option, Matautia said.
Nakata said he is trying to get more churches to step forward.
Not everyone was upset with yesterday's news.
"I think that's positive because we've had a lot of complaints that the park is not safe, not clean and not comfortable to be in," said John Breinich, Ala Moana/Kakaako Neighborhood Board chairman.
He said people now comment about how safe and clean the park is since the city started closing it at night.
The board is scheduled to discuss the overnight closure at its meeting Tuesday night and will likely take a stand on whether the park should remain closed at night, Breinich said.
The city started closing Ala Moana Regional Park at night on March 27 to get park users ready for a three-day, around-the-clock shutdown this Tuesday to next Thursday for park maintenance.
Park-loitering law repeal is likely dead
A bill that would repeal a state law allowing police to arrest people for remaining in parks after being asked to leave is probably dead for this year, a key state lawmaker said.
The law makes the offense criminal trespass, a petty misdemeanor. Both the state House and Senate approved Senate Bill 2687 but with different effective dates.
Unless there is a push by the Senate, there will be no more discussion on the bill, said state Rep. Blake Oshiro, House Judiciary Committee vice chairman.