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Weprin wants city to upgrade 210 St. park sprinkler systems

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Standing in front of the sprinkler at the 210th Street Playground, City Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) called on the city Parks Department to install timing mechanisms on the 665 sprinklers at city playgrounds so they will automatically shut off when nobody is using them.

Weprin claimed the city is wasting 800 million gallons of water during the summer when either the sprinklers are not being used or Parks workers forget to shut them off for the night.

“With double-digit water rate increases, this is a slap in the face to taxpayers that we’re throwing the water literally down the drain,” he said at the Oakland Gardens playground at 73rd Avenue. “I just find it frustrating that water is being wasted. Just staring at it makes me sick.”

Weprin said if Parks does not agree to install the devices, he will introduce legislation in the Council mandating the agency to put in the timing mechanisms.

Parks issued a statement in response to the councilman’s request, but did not indicate whether it would follow through on his suggestion.

“The over 650 spray showers in parks throughout the city are among the most popular elements in our playgrounds,” Parks spokeswoman Meghan Lalor said in a statement. “While many of the newer models can be activated by touch pads and have timers, the majority are less sophisticated and are at sites that don’t have staff assigned throughout the entire day. Rather than have them off when children arrive over the course of the day, we activate them after 10 a.m. when the temperature is 80 degrees or higher.

“The spray showers are turned off at the end of the day. There may be times when no one is using the shower, but it does ensure that feature is available for use by the public even if no staff are present.”

Weprin said it would not take long for the city to get a return on its investment if it installed the devices because the mechanisms would save money on wasted water, which could then be used to stave off water rate increases or pay for education or health care and create jobs.

“The savings would be enormous,” he said. “In no time at all it would pay for itself ... I think in one day.”

Weprin emphasized that he is not asking for Parks to take out the sprinklers, saying he takes his 2-year-old daughter to the 210th Street playground in Oakland Gardens.

“I like sprinklers as much as the next guy,” he said, joking, “If they want to put one in the Council chambers, I’d be happy.”

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

Updated 6:01 pm, October 10, 2011
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