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Playground poised to reopen after fire

The playground at Alley Pond Park is weeks away from reopening after a suspicious fire ravaged the area in September. Photo by Nykeema Williams
TimesLedger Newspapers

Eight months of waiting will soon come to an end as the new playground in Alley Pond Park rises from the place where ashes once were scattered, according to the city Parks Department.

After a suspicious fire gutted the Oakland Gardens playground in September, a spokesman for Parks said new equipment was delivered to the park and was being installed as of last week. The new playground near Springfield Boulevard and 76th Avenue should be finished by the beginning of June and will look fairly similar to its original structure, Parks said.

But for City Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens), the news was met with mixed emotions. Weprin said although he was happy to see progress at the children’s play spot, the eight-month process had dragged on longer than he had hoped.

“I’m so disappointed that we have gone without the playground for so long,” Weprin said after months of working with Parks to install the new equipment. “But the city makes progress.”

The playground has been closed since Sept. 28 when firefighters responded to a call of a small fire just after 1 a.m. The heat from the flames eventually became so intense that it warped and twisted the steel beams of the playground equipment’s structure.

“It was heartbreaking to see all the young families come by to use the playground after it was closed,” Weprin said.

By the time firefighters had extinguished the flames, a large piece of equipment had been destroyed and an adjacent plastic roof had melted, Parks said.

Eight months later, the playground was still blocked off with yellow caution tape and signs that read “Playground Closed,” but inside the gates were workers piecing together the park’s new playground, slated by Parks to open by early June.

Portions of the playground unaffected by the flames remained erect while an entirely new portion was built alongside it. The fresh additions included new slides and tree-themed pathways.

Though the cause of the fire was still unknown after eight months, Weprin said it was likely an act of vandalism involving area teenagers.

“We have a feeling it was young people because we’ve heard stories of younger teenage guys hanging out late at night around there,” Weprin said. “We don’t know for sure, but we know it became a real fireball.”

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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