A recent spate of vandalism in McGolrick Park has park activists frustrated and local officials scratching their heads in an effort to find a permanent solution to what is becoming a repeated problem in the park.
In this instance, wooden beams were taken off a row of benches in the park and a manhole cover was missing from an open sewer near the benches. The incident is believed to have occurred on Thursday night. Deputy Inspector Terence Hurson of the 94th Precinct said that while previous reports suggested that the manhole cover was most likely taken by someone looking to sell it as scrap metal, the cover was found on Wednesday hidden in the bushes in the park and is likely the handiwork of the same vandals who took the wooden beams. Hurson said the suspects are believed to be in the 14-16 year old range.
Meghan Lalor, a spokesperson for the Parks Department said in a statement that new benches are being ordered for McGolrick Park and the sewer cover has been replaced.
“Our staff inspects playgrounds daily for maintenance issues requiring attention, and we have been working closely with the 94th precinct to combat vandalism in McGolrick Park,” said Lalor.
Assemblyman Joe Lentol has heard the periodic complaints of vandalism and said that a continuous police presence around McGolrick should be more than adequate in preventing a future instance of vandalism.
“When I heard about it I wrote a letter and I called the inspector of the 94th precinct,” said Lentol. “I think what we really need are random patrols of the park by the police to provide a deterrent so that they have scheduled patrolling of the park.”
Park activists and local residents say that their complaints about the state of McGolrick Park have too often fallen on deaf ears. Holly Fairall, a resident of the area surrounding the park and co-chairperson of the Friends of McGolrick Park community group, said that vandalism is hardly the only problem that she and her neighbors have to deal with. She mentioned the homeless population people feeling threatened by rowdy teenagers in the park as two recurring problems, not to mention general upkeep issues such as grass around the park that hasn’t been mowed. Friends of McGolrick Park are doing their part to pitch, having recently received a $750 grant from Kaboom.org and the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group to help spruce up and maintain the play space for children.
However, Fairall seemed most concerned by the presence of the teenagers, saying that the city and community needed to find a long-term solution to creating a diversion for them.
“We need some kind of social advocates to reach out to these kids in the park to offer them services, offer them some kind of opportunity because clearly they have nothing better to do than spend their time destroying the park,” said Fairall. “A lot of people in the community don’t feel qualified and don’t feel safe addressing these kids.”
Hurson said that in a recent meeting with Parks officials, the 94th Precinct resolved to have a continuous police presence, with both plainclothes and uniform police making periodic patrols through the park. He cautioned that it would only be temporary, not permanent like Lentol had hoped.
“I can’t have them there full-time and steady, but as part of their routine assignments for the next couple of weeks on a day-to-day basis they’ll be going through the park and mixing it up with my uniform guys,” said Hurson.
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