A renovated play area near one of Downtown’s larger schools has become a flashpoint that pits the availability of open space against parent security concerns.
Earlier this summer, a long-planned renovation of Paulus Hook Park finally wrapped after years of delays. The park’s history dates to the Revolutionary War when George Washington’s “Flying Camp” built an American fort on the land before it was home to a nighttime raid in 1779 that became known as the Battle of Paulus Hook.
Located at the intersection of Grand and Washington streets, the southwest portion of the park is home to a new playground that abuts P.S. 16. The school serves about 700 children from kindergarten through 5th grade and uses the playground during school hours, a reality that has sparked some safety concerns.
A group called the Concerned Parents Association of P.S. 16 recently launched a petition in support of the school being granted exclusive use of Paulus Hook Park playground during instruction hours. The group argues that keeping the playground gates open increases the risk of young children being injured by heavy vehicular traffic, possibly being abducted, or just leaving on their own.
“Opening the gates during school hours would allow ANYONE to access the park during the school day,” the petition reads. “At any point in time, 50 or more students from our school will be there. Allowing public access interferes with the ability of our teachers to keep track of our children.”
The Concerned Parents group claims that during the past few months, the school’s administration has been trying to reach a compromise with the Historic Paulus Hook Association (HPHA) regarding the playground. The HPHA says they are hoping to come to an agreement to split the park’s access times that would grant the school certain hours of exclusive use but also allow the neighborhood more public time.
The petition launched by parents at P.S. 16 is requesting that the gates at Paulus Hook Park be locked between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. on school days only. The move would be accomplished via a Memorandum of Agreement if enacted, which would need approval from the city council.