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An Oakland Gardens playground remained closed Tuesday, its equipment a tangled and charred mess as the community searched for answers regarding a fire — which some are calling an arson — that struck the playground last week.
In the early morning hours of Sept. 28, just after 1 a.m., the FDNY responded to a call of what appears to have been a small fire at the playground in the southwestern section of Alley Pond Park near Springfield Boulevard and 76th Avenue.
The fire destroyed one end of a large piece of playground equipment — its supports mangled and an adjacent plastic roof melted by the flames. The padded surface underneath bore the marks of the extreme heat; vehicle tracks dragged it out through the playground’s gates.
City Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) was outraged over what he called the “apparent torching” of the playground that is no longer accessible to the thousands of parents and children who normally use it.
The councilman called on the community to come forward with any information about the fire.
“Anyone who witnessed the action or has relevant information should come forward,” Weprin said. “The children of our community have lost access to a beautiful and safe place to play.”
Meanwhile, the city Parks Department said it was working to restore the playground to the community.
“The arson committed at the Alley Pond Playground at Springfield Boulevard and 79th Avenue is a terrible crime against the community, especially the children who regularly play here,” said Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski. “We are working closely with NYPD and FDNY to investigate this incident and we thank Council Member Weprin for helping us get the word out about the playground destruction. We are currently estimating the damage and hope, with the Council member’s help, we can secure funding to repair it as soon as possible.”
Weprin said he was told by Lewandowski that the undamaged half of the equipment can be saved.
Capt. Ronald Leyson, of the 111th Precinct, said police were still investigating the incident and that everyone who is arrested is being questioned about it.
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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