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Stark parks: Local moms demand upgrades for neighborhood playgrounds

Moms in action: Local moms Dari Litchman, Ingrid Labossiere, Monika Bartok, and Tara Siringo are fed up with the poor condition of the playground at IS 278 in Marine Park.
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A group of local moms are livid that their neighborhood parks — IS 278 and Lenape Playground — are falling apart, with regularly clogged spray showers, uneven flooring, and chipped paint, and they’re demanding the city give the play-spaces a makeover before a kid trips and gets seriously hurt.

“There’s just a lot of equipment that seems very old and the floor has a lot of holes. Really young kids will trip, it’s really uneven,” said Marine Park mom Gina Napolitano, who regularly brings her 2-year-old daughter to the green spaces.

The dilapidated condition of the equipment prevents some families with young children from using Lenape Playground, on Avenue U and E. 38th Street — often referred to as Snake Park because of its serpentine statuary — according to Napolitano

“A lot of parents of very young children, preschool age, also express concern and tell me they don’t go to these playgrounds because they don’t seem safe,” she said. “There always seem to be things that need to be maintained, and things that really need to be updated.”

Even when the city has made attempts to improve things, it often fails to please locals.

Earlier this month, a few of the moms initially thought the playground’s slides were surrounded by yellow caution tape because of what they said looked like tar melting off the play equipment. But it was actually blocked off because Parks Department crews had touched it up with fresh of paint, according to a spokeswoman for the city agency.

The quick-fix was done so poorly that Marine Park mom Tara Siringo said it looked like something toxic was dripping from the slides.

“They left the playground in horrible shape,” Siringo said. “When I went to go check what was taped off, it looked like they patched it up, they did a horrible patch paint job.”

And at the end of June, youngsters looking to cool off at IS 278’s spray showers on Fillmore Avenue and Madison Place were left high and dry because of the chronic clogging problems. Crews cleared out the drains for the second time last week and will continue to monitor them, according to the Parks Department spokeswoman, but the beloved spray showers shouldn’t continuously break during the height of the summer for days at a time, said Siringo.

“Now the sprinklers don’t work in Marine Park — they worked well but not for a while, and then they just broke down completely,” she said.

The Parks Department just doesn’t have the green to give either Lenape Playground or IS 278 full much-needed upgrades, but in the meantime, in-house crews plan to smooth out the Fillmore Avenue greenspace’s uneven flooring, a spokeswoman said.

But with the recent unveiling of more than $5 million in renovations to Marine Park’s bocce, basketball, and tennis courts, it seems silly that no more could have been done for the shoddy slides and swings, said Napolitano.

“There’s no funding to do any massive upgrades or capital upgrades at the moment, which is frustrating because they just spent millions of dollars upgrading the sports courts,” she said.

And what’s more, state Sen. Marty Golden (R–Marine Park) allocated $1 million specifically for IS 278 last year, but because of bureaucratic red tape, taxpayers will have to wait nearly two years before that cash gets finalized in the city budget, and only after that will the Parks Department hold a meeting with the community to figure out how to use it, said the spokeswoman.

A group of moms had also fought for more swings in the same Fillmore Avenue greenspace last year, but the Parks Department told them the same unfortunate answer — there was no funding.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Posted 12:00 am, August 1, 2017
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