BY TRISHA SAKHUJA
Volunteers want to improve conditions at the Astoria Heights playground because concerned parents who take their children to the playground say it is not a safe or clean environment. The Dept. of Parks and Recreation, however, has not given them the green light to do so.
Rev. Larry Mayberry of Connection Church New York City said his team of volunteers can build a retaining wall that would fix the park’s eroding hill and excessive dirt problem. He said the Parks Dept. responded to their plea by saying they did not have the staff to supervise such a project.
Members of the newly formed group, Friends of the Astoria Heights playground, attended the Community Board 1 meeting on Sept. 17 asking for a change, so their children can play safely without having to worry about trash, broken glass, drugs, condoms and off-leash dogs. Some of the bigger problems mentioned were the eroded areas of the playground, exposed tree roots and poor sewer drainage.
They hope the playground’s maintenance and upkeep can climb from priority number 20 out of 34, to the top of the board’s list of priorities, which will be sent to the City for consideration.
“My son blew up a condom like a balloon,” Mara Smith said, a mother of a four-year-old son.
Lynn Kennedy, founder of the Friends of Astoria Heights playground, said she brings her two-year-old to other parks in the neighborhood even though she lives only a few blocks away from the playground. The petition she started has more than 200 signatures now.
Jenny Rando, a mother who visits the park with her eight-year-old and five-year-old daughter, said she has caught teenagers having intercourse in the bathroom.
A spokesperson from the Dept. of Parks said the Astoria Heights playground is cleaned at least five times every week. “The park’s multi-purpose play space was reconstructed last year, its handball and basketball courts are now in the process of being reconstructed, and we are currently seeking funding to renovate the playground and fix eroded areas,” a spokesperson said.
The Friends of Astoria Heights Playground will organize a clean-up day in the upcoming weeks.
Reach Trisha Sakhuja at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @Tsakhuja13.