The debate continued last week between neighbors, civic associations, elected officials and Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office over the new playground to be built in PS 91’s schoolyard in Glendale, but little headway was evident.
Several players in the ongoing drama met at the school last week to try to reach a compromise that would satisfy neighbors, who are worried that leaving the playground open after school and on the weekends will attract rowdy teenagers.
“Unfortunately nothing could get resolved,” said Nick Comianni a Glendale resident and president of Community Education Council 24. “The right people weren’t there to actually make the decision.”
Chief among the issues was what time the playground, a joint venture between the city Department of Education and city Parks Department, would close. The mayor has mandated all schoolyards transformed under the Schoolyards to Playgrounds initiative be open from dawn until dusk per Parks Department rules, but neighbors want to set a time of day.
Jen Manley, Queens director of the mayor’s Office of Community Affairs, said the ultimate decision over when the gates will be closed each day will be left to the principal, but said the formal policy of dawn to dusk could not be altered.
“It’s a collaboration,” she said. “If it weren’t, if it were just DOE money, it wouldn’t be a problem.”
Neighbor Arlene LoMastro criticized the mayor’s office for giving PS 91 Principal Kenneth Lombardi the responsibility.
“You put him in a predicament when you make him the sole decider of what’s going on in the community,” she said.
CB 5 District Manager Gary Giordano said the policy itself needed to be more flexible.
“We need to approach someone in a policy−making position,” he said. “Because right now we’re just going around and around.”
Lombardi hailed the project, though he indicated he had little say over whether the project would move forward or not.
“We’re grateful to the mayor’s office for doing this,” he said. “No principal in his right mind would turn this down.”
Lombardi said the school was renovated several years ago to incorporate 18 new classrooms and a cafeteria. “There is still not a gym,” he said, noting much of the schoolyard was taken up by the new buildings. “Our attempts to give youngsters physical education are more challenged than ever.”
But neighbor Susan Gyurisko and her husband, Corey, said the teenagers who often sit on their stoop and drink beer for hours would likely be attracted to the playground.
“I don’t think your custodian is equipped to handle these kids,” she said. “He’s not a security guard.”
Nick Commianni, a Glendale resident and president of CEC 24, criticized the mayor’s office for not bringing the matter before CEC 24.
“We weren’t notified of any finalization,” he said. “This should have been brought before my council. I can take input from the community.”
Commianni also worried that the amount allocated to maintain the park would not be enough. The city has allocated $50,000 for three years to pay for a maintenance man to open and close the park on weekends, maintain the property and perform repairs.
But Commianni estimated that after paying the school custodian and an appointed maintenance man their salaries and overtime costs, there would only be $16,000 a year left to perform any sort of repairs.
Lombardi said the amount would be enough for minor repairs, but little else.
The new playground is expected to open in late spring 2009.
Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e−mail at jwalsh@tim
©2008 Community News Group
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