April 4, 2016 By Michael Florio
Complaints of beer bottles, condoms and even a crack pipe being found in a local playground has prompted calls for new legislation.
Council Member Costa Constantinides plans to introduce a bill that would require the Parks Department to lock all gated children’s playgrounds at night.
The proposed bill stems from his frustrations over Sean’s Place, a playground located on 38th Street between 31st Avenue and Broadway, where adults have been conducting illegal and inappropriate activities during the night for years, Constantinides said.
“It’s been an ongoing battle for the past six years and it’s getting progressively worse,” local mother Jenn Schulte agreed.
Schulte is a mother of two who has been taking her kids to Sean’s Place since her oldest was born six years ago.
She said she has found broken glass from beer and liquor bottles, used condoms and human feces at the playground. At times there are little baggies used for holding drugs, syringes and in one incident, a crack pipe that a little girl picked up about two weeks ago, according to Schulte. She added that park benches are sometimes still occupied by people who had slept there overnight.
“The gates aren’t locked at night and it allows anyone to come into the playground overnight,” she said.
Constantinides said parents have a right to take their children to these playgrounds in the morning and should not have to worry about the remnants of the illegal activity.
He believes that locking the playgrounds is the only viable solution, adding that no matter how early the Parks Department might arrive to clean them up, it will “never be early enough.”
“All children’s playgrounds that have a gate should be locked every night at 9 o’clock,” he said.
Currently, if residents call for a playground to be locked every night, the Parks Department will ask a community member to take on the responsibility. Constantinides called this “not a feasible solution.”
He charged that the Parks Department’s Park Enforcement Officers should be given the responsibility of locking playgrounds at night, especially now that the City has funded more than 60 new officers for the agency.
“They are the ones equipped to deal with any issues,” the Councilman said. “They should be the ones locking the gates.”
His bill would pertain solely to children’s playgrounds, not all parks. At this point he is only focusing on the playgrounds that currently have gates.
He acknowledged that his legislation would not keep everyone out of these playgrounds, but said it would make access more difficult.
“It takes a lot more effort to scale a fence, rather than just walking through the front door,” he said. “It is also much more noticeable [to police officers].”
Though Constantinides is in the early stages of drafting this bill, he said he hopes to introduce it in the near future.
“We are hoping to introduce it soon,” he said. “This is a conversation that we must have with Parks Department.”
Schulte said that, if passed, this bill would make a world of difference for parents in the area.
“That would be amazing,” she said. “I think it would fix 98 percent of the problems and we will gladly take that.”