Today’s news:

Playground at Alley Pond Pk. slated to reopen

The playground equipment shows the damage left the day after the fire.
TimesLedger Newspapers

The playground in Alley Pond Park, which was damaged by a suspicious fire toward the end of September, will be repaired and open to the public once again by late spring or early summer, according to the city Parks Department.

A spokesman for Parks said the department is currently finalizing its plans for the Oakland Gardens playground, in the southwestern section of the park near Springfield Boulevard and 76th Avenue, and will soon order replacement materials.

The playground has been closed since Sept. 28 when just after 1 a.m. firefighters responded to a call of a small fire, the heat from which was so intense that it left the steel beams of the large piece of equipment a twisted and mangled mess.

The fire torched and destroyed on end of the large piece of equipment and melted an adjacent plastic roof. The padded surface underneath bore the marks of the extreme heat; the day after it was melted and vehicle tracks dragged it out through the playground’s gates.

City Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) and Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski expressed their outrage, and called on the community to come forward with any information regarding the fire.

A spokesman for the FDNY said the case was still an open and active investigation, and fire marshals continue to look for suspects.

Weprin said he has been working closely with the Parks Department since the fire to reopen the playground.

“Parks has been cooperative in getting it done. Unfortunately, the bureaucracy has slowed us down. I was hoping it would be opened in the early spring,” he said.

“Unfortunately, we never did catch the perpetrator of this terrible crime. We’re still looking for anyone who knows about it,” he said. “I just can’t imagine what’s going through the head of a person who would just torch a kids playground like that.”

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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