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Glendale park plan causes furor

A group of Glendale residents is up in arms over the plan for a new park on their street, but they can hardly rally around the historic cry, “Not in my backyard.” Rather their demand is “not on my Saturday and Sunday.”

The residents are facing a plan put forward by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to transform the playground of PS 91 at 68−10 Center Ave. into a public park, which would remain open on weekends. The schoolyard now closes on Friday.

“Saturday and Sunday is our peace,” said Arlene LoMastro, who lives across the street from the school. “That’s our quality of life.”

The city Parks Department said the new playground will provide trees for shade, raised planters for a children’s garden, a toddler play unit, game tables, benches, two removable half−court junior basketball hoops and decorative fabric screening along the property line the schoolyard shares with private homes.

The city worked with the school’s parents, teachers and students to develop the design for their schoolyard starting in December 2007, the Parks Department said. The final design was presented to the community in June 2008, the Parks Department said.

But neighbors and members of the Glendale Civic Association are chafing, partly because they say they were not informed of the plan until it was already approved. The project, part of the Schoolyards to Playgrounds initiative to transform the yards of 290 city schools, is slated to be finished in late spring. A public meeting between the community and the mayor’s office was scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Dec. 3 at PS 91.

“I don’t see how people can say, ‘Give this over to the public,’ when you see the proximity of this park to private homes,” LoMastro said.

Residents also worried that opening up the schoolyard to the public would attract rowdy teenagers, who would stay past closing hours and intimidate any custodian attempting to close the park for the night.

“When that park opens, you’ve got another place to check out,” Glendale Civic member Pat Grayson told Deputy Inspector Keith Green, commander of the 104th Precinct, at a civic meeting.

An official with the mayor’s office speaking on condition of anonymity said the park will be geared toward elementary schoolchildren and their parents, not teenagers.

Neighbors were also concerned about who would decide what time of day would constitute “dusk,” the park’s prescribed closing time.

The mayor’s official said the school custodian or a liaison appointed by the custodian would have the ultimate say.

Residents were also less than enthusiastic over the suggestion that the 104th Precinct would respond to close up the park anytime neighbors called.

“Unfortunately, they’re going to be as accessible as they are with any quality−of−life issue,” neighbor Susan Gyurisko said. “They’re not available.”

The park plan did get some recognition from Elizabeth Crowley, who will become the area’s new City Council member in January. Crowley praised the plan for enhancing a space made smaller by overcrowding in public schools.

“It sounds very nice,” she said. “Half the schoolyard has been taken away by the extension of the school.”

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e−mail at jwalsh@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 154.

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