BY STEPHEN MCGUIRE
Playtime could be hazardous to your child’s health – or even deadly – according to a study that examined a handful of Queens’ playgrounds.
A local playground safety survey conducted this spring by the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) examined the safety at local places where kids play.
What they found were some startling results.
Dangers On The Playground
In May and June a team of nearly 20 NYPIRG field study participants surveyed 44 playgrounds in New York City — a sampling of ones located in all five boroughs including Queens.
According to NYPIRG officials, the purpose of the study was to identify eight potential playground hazards — including fall-related hazards — such as:
• unsafe surfacing,
• inadequate fall zones
• unsafe equipment height.
• potential toxic playground risks that could be posed by peeling paint or wood that is not red wood or cedar.
• collision hazards posed by swings that are too close together, have seats made of hard or rigid material, etc.
• head entrapment (openings between 3.5 and 9 inches) and
• clothing entanglement hazards (open “S” hooks and gaps and protrusions).
“Public playgrounds can be wonderful places for children to have fun and face new challenges. But far too many New York playgrounds contain hazards that can injure and even kill,” said Susan Craine, a NYPIRG Consumer Advocate. According to the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), it is estimated that 190,000 children playing on public playgrounds were injured seriously enough to require emergency room treatment in 2001.
An average of 17 children die each year in playground-related incidents, NYPIRG officials said.
NYPIRG officials said that unlike many European countries and Canada, the United States does not currently have mandatory safety standards for the design, construction and maintenance of outdoor play equipment.
A New Danger?
This year a new potential toxic hazard has emerged on public playgrounds. A long way down? According to surveyors, “equipment height” was a danger at Playground 146.
It has been discovered that some wooden playground equipment may contain a chemical compound called chromated copper arsenate, or CCA. This compound contains arsenic, a known human carcinogen. A group in Rochester, New York found that CCA can leech out of the wood, putting children at risk of ingesting a poison.
“This new toxic hazard is very disturbing,” said Tracy Shelton, a NYPIRG Consumer Attorney. “Children could be ingesting poison and not even know it.”
Symptoms of arsenic poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, muscle cramps, face swelling, and shock.
CCA treated wood has been banned in Switzerland, Vietnam and Indonesia. Japan, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Australia and New Zealand have restricted or proposed restrictions on CCA wood, according to NYPIRG.
On June 18, the State Legislature passed a bill that would ban CCA treated wood from public playgrounds. It also requires that wooden playgrounds be regularly sealed with polyurethane-based sealant to prevent the leeching of CCA and other types of chemicals out of treated wood.
Of the wooden play equipment that’s in this borough, “there are only two places where that’s left,” said Queens Parks Commissioner Richard Murphy.
According to Murphy, certified Parks inspectors inspect 35 parks at random every two weeks, and if they find anything unsafe, modifications are made right away.
Murphy said that playground product safety guidelines change almost yearly and that it is studies like the recent NYPIRG study that keep those who maintain the park on their toes.
“We appreciate the report but citizens don’t have to be too concerned,” Murphy said. The parks in Queens “are absolutely safe,” he added.
Two of the playgrounds cited in the survey were at Queens Schools – PS 162 and Marie Curie 158.
Board of Education officials had yet to respond to the Tribune’s request for comment for this story at presstime.
The Study Results
The following chart provides an overview of the NYPIRG study’s findings at 11 Queens playgrounds:
Queens Addresses The Reparations Issue
BY TARA THOMAS
Last month, a small group of Queens residents joined together at York College for a lesson in history and a call to action.
The discussion for this forum was “reparations” – a growing movement which asks how and who should help to repay African-Americans for the pain, suffering and injustice of slavery.
The meeting was meant to encourage discussion and debate, but organizers agreed that the first step before any action on reparations can ever be taken is to educate the population on the concept and open up a dialogue on action.
What Is Reparations?
The word “reparation” — from the Latin “reparare,” to repair — describes the payment of damages, the act of making amends or giving satisfaction for a wrong or injury. Reparations for African-American slavery literature (above) is being disseminated throughout the U.S. to create awareness of the reparations national rally set for Saturday, Aug. 17.
Among social groups, reparations has historically, sought to compensate those who have suffered great, arguably irreparable, damage throughout history.
In 1952, Germany issued over $800 million to Jewish Holocaust survivors.
For the wrongs suffered in association with World War II, some of Japanese ancestry in North America saw the issuance of over $200 million.
Initiatives such as college funds and reserved land allotments have been steps taken to compensate people of Native American heritage for their land.
Even the financial and social support that Sept. 11 survivors and their families have received are, by definition, forms of reparations.
However, according to Viola Plummer, chair of the Reparations National Rally, “the most brutal form of [injustice] known to the modern world was perpetrated on [African American] ancestors” and the time for apt reparations is now.
Plummer, along with the Code Foundation’s Erica Ford and approximately 70 concerned community members took part in African American reparations discourse in a town hall meeting sponsored in part by Councilmen Leroy Comrie, James Sanders and Charles Barron.
The December 12 Movement’s International Secretariat (of which Plummer and Ford are both members) and many other passionate individuals were instrumental in the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) declaration of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade as a crime against humanity.
The declaration added official support to the collective cry for a “focused, step-by-step” approach to equal rights that, Plummer said, the African American community needs to adopt in this era of the reparations movement.
Creating Reparations Awareness
Queens reparations movement organizers said that increased public awareness of reparations is considered a success when placed opposite the muted past of the movement.
However, they noted that insufficient details about the movement threaten to desensitize the masses and turn the term into a mere catch phrase for campaigns and organizers.
Queens meeting moderator Erica Ford reminded the audience of the movement’s earlier actions such as Queen Mother Moore’s approaching John Conyers (D-Detroit) regarding a Senate reparations bill back in 1969.
And closer to home, an announcement at a recent rally by City Councilman Charles Barron declared that the New York City Council began hearings for the bill on June 19, also known as “Juneteenth,” which marks the day that slaves in Texas learned the news of their freedom.
Time For Some Action
Affirmative action, race-specific scholarships and the like have provided recent examples of reparations initiatives designed to enhance the lives of many in “minority groups.”
However, some note that these actions can resemble “hand-outs,” and contribute to a rift within the African American and Caribbean communities.
A pervasive theme in the upcoming national rally in Washington, D.C. is “They Owe Us.”
To coincide with and commemorate the birthday of Marcus Garvey – the rally is scheduled for August 17 – whose message of Pan-African self-sufficiency contrasted a theme of relying on someone else’s obligation.
This raises the obstacle to reparations of creating a definitive and united list of proper compensation.
It’s an obstacle that required the “decolonialization of the mind,” Councilman James Sanders said.
“This is a movement whose time has come… [having little to do with] morality or logic, but absolute power,” power being defined as the ability to have your will accomplished in spite of obstacles.
To Sanders, the reparations issue is “a question of back pay.” If, and when, a price tag can be put on the affliction of slavery, the fair distribution of those funds will be the next dilemma.
There has been mention of lawsuits against the perpetrators of slavery, which most identifiably include, but is not limited to, the United States government.
Legal action is not expected to be easy.
Sanders said “suing corporations is one thing, suing the government is another.”
“Do I have to have five generations worth of family in America to qualify?”
“No one in my family kept any slaves. Why am I responsible?”
“I went to college. I’ve got a good job. My family and I enjoy a nice house, car — the American dream. Am I eligible?”
“Who’s supposed to pay?”
“African Americans weren’t the only people to struggle. What makes their situation so different?”
These are only some of the concerns expressed and contemplated when thinking about the growing reparations movement.
“It is a necessity to execute this march for our future,” said Ford, adding that attention must be given to the issues if there is ever to be a meaningful debate and a suitable formula for reparations created.
Get On The Bus
In conjunction with the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (NCOBRA), the Jamaica Branch of the NAACP, the Afrikan Poetry Theatre and Muslims for Reparations, the United Black Men of Queens and other local groups, the December 12 Movement’s Millions for Reparations committee is sponsoring a Washington rally.
Pickup locations for the 6 a.m. trip currently include Richard’s Place II in Laurelton, Rochdale’s NCOBRA Office, St. Albans Congregational Church, Roy Wilkins Park, York College and the Afrikan Poetry Theatre.
For tickets and more information, call 398-1766 or log onto the website www.millionsforreparations.com.
African American Reparations: Relevant Websites
Africa Reparations Movement [the.arc.co.uk/arm/]
African Holocaust [members.aol.com/jahpaint/newhol.htm]
African Reparations [ar-africare.com]
Africanite Network [africanite.net]
Black Speak [Blackspeak.com]
Gateway to African American History Charter.[uchicago.edu/AAH/recent.htm]
Justice Talking [Justicetalking.org/season_two_shows/reparations.html]
National Black United Front [Nbufront.org]
National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America [Ncobra.com]
New Panther Vanguard Movement [Globalpanther.com/rep.shtml]
PlebisPsyche Study Group [plebispsyche.com]
Poverty and Race Research Action Council [Prrac.org/]
The Self Determination Committee [Directblackaction.com]
Slavery Reparations [//racerelations.about.com/newissues/racerelations/