Sean's Place Playground, located on 38th St (between Broadway and 31st Avenue), Astoria, has begun its new timetable, by closing and locking its gates at 9PM every night and opening up around 5AM the following morning.
The decision came after parents of the kids playing inside discovered used condoms, human feces and drug paraphernalia in the space.
According to Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria), the playground has been a constant hang out for illegal activities.
Constantinides was joined by Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria), state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria), Community Board 1 Parks Chair Richard Khuzami, Central Astoria LDC Executive Director Marie Torniali and Astoria residents and parents on Monday in front of Sean's Place, where they highlighted the unpleasant conditions of the playground.
Constantinides said that “Sean’s Place has been known for some issues over the last few years, I was actually looking back at articles as early back as 2012, talking about this being a consistent night-time hangout……..There are parents coming here in the morning and finding things you shouldn’t find in a children’s playground. These trespassers have come and used the park in this illegal fashion; they leave their remnants behind for out children and families to find in the morning.”
The sign outside the park states that it is supposed to be closed at 9PM, however for many years now it was something that was yet to be implemented. A problem of most parks in New York.
There was also talk of the problems facing the patrolling of the park, with Constantinides stating that although the 114th Precinct try to patrol the playground, it was "unfeasible to think that somehow the police department was going to be able to station a car out in front of this park, or every park in our district, every single night."
That is why, according to Constantinides, the precinct joined forces with the Parks Department so that they can get to the park as early as possible, however even that would not stop parents and children from discovering paraphernalia strewn about.
Due to the huge risk to kids, it was decided that a Park staffer will lock the park every night and a Park staffer will unlock it every morning.
The local politicians sympathized with parents, as most of them are themselves parents, especially after hearing from the Friends of Sean's Park, about children who were seen placing crack pipes and used condoms in their mouths.
“All three elected officials in this area grew up here. We are Astoria natives, so we understand how important it is to play in parks,” Assemblywoman Simotas added, “but now that [Constantinides] and I have children of our own it adds a heightened sense of urgency because we recognize how important it is to have safe places for our children to play….."
Local parents hope that the new urgency of the situation makes the playground safer for their children, many even stating that they stopped coming to the play space altogether because of the risks involved.
*Featured Image Credit: Yvette Brown/Queens Tribune