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Pay to play! PS 29 vandals promise cash to repair their damage — neighbors outraged

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Parents of the privileged teens who torched a Cobble Hill playground have set aside $50,000 to cover the damage, but critics say the PR move amounts to little more than a cynical sociology lesson about class — and, perhaps, the lack thereof.

The reckless juveniles set the playground equipment at PS 29 ablaze early last Sunday morning, shocking a neighborhood unaccustomed to such flagrant acts of vandalism.

Even as the toxic stench of scorched plastic hung heavy near the Henry Street school, the arsonists’ parents were already making calls to high-powered DUMBO criminal defense attorney Sam Gregory to set up a $50,000 bank account to pay for the damage done by their spawn.

“The parents were very upset about what happened, and they wanted to figure out a way to get that playground operational and up and running as soon as possible,” Gregory said, claiming that the blaze was an accident or a prank gone wrong. “Someone who did this intentionally wouldn’t go tell their parents.”

The teens set the blaze as an attempt to make a YouTube video of themselves sliding through a burning ring of fire, according to Fire Department spokesman Jim Long. But things went terribly awry, as the plastic slide quickly ignited.

Two of the teens, Max Layton and Bairn Sweeney, both 16-years-old, turned themselves in at the 76th Precinct stationhouse on Tuesday and are being charged as adults with arson and criminal mischief. Two others will be charged as minors, Long said.

Some neighbors were appalled that the vandals might be able to buy themselves out of trouble.

“I don’t think it’s right to buy your kids out,” said Cobble Hill resident Stephen Negrycz. “If they are guilty, they should face due process and punishment. I don’t think it’s helping them by giving the money.”

A Fire Department spokesman said fire marshal is still investigating the fire. Once the report is released, it will be up to the district attorney to pursue legal action.

That’s what some residents want.

“The law is here for everybody,” said a Cobble Hill resident who requested anonymity. “This just shows you that kids that have the resources, have an advantage.”

Principal Melanie Woods reportedly said she was pleased that parents ponied up to pay for the damages, which amount to $50,000, but would like the unidentified perpetrators to “take responsibi­lity,” by publicly apologizing for their actions.

Parents agreed.

“So far, we don’t think it’s adequate to talk about wiring money,” said Lisa Trollback, vice president of the PTA. “This money helps a cash-strapped Department of Education, but it doesn’t give anyone closure. What happened here is a crime.”

Gregory sees it differently.

“[The fund] is a breath of fresh air — people who want to act honorably and responsibly,” said Gregory, who refused to reveal the name of his clients.

Officials said it could take six to eight weeks to replace the damaged equipment — just in time for the end of the school year.

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Reader Feedback

Brett from Carroll Gardens says:
I hope this precedent catches on. Instead of locking up people who sell drugs to PS 29 students the dealers parents can simply pay for the users' treatment. When someone beats up a PS 29 student they mugger's parents can simply pay the hospital bills and everything is OK. Of course if you don't have money then you go straight to jail! Nice to see America turning into a plutocracy right in the middle of Brownstone Brooklyn.
May 16, 2011, 6:29 am
Or from Yellow Hook says:
And put the little darlings to work rebuilding what they destroyed.

Chain gang time!
May 16, 2011, 8:49 am
Dave from Park Slope says:
Wow, Jim Walden wasn't available to defend the little punks pro bono?
May 16, 2011, 9:30 am
Steve from Brooklyn says:
Put these kids in jail for a week and then make them do community service equal to $50,000 of work. Keep 'em busy for about a year.

Mommy and Daddy do not get to pay their way out of this one.
May 16, 2011, 9:55 am
Frank from Windsor Terrace says:
It is great that these folks have agreed to pay so at least the playground will be available to use but no one brings up the point that what if this fire was not contained and spread or if any FDNY was injured putting out the fire or rushing to the fire...these kids HAVE to be prosecuted as criminals
May 16, 2011, 10:08 am
Lulabelle from Cobble Hill says:
We're talking about 15 year olds here. They're not old enough to get a drivers license. They don't need to go to jail. They need to come forward and apologize. Rumor has it they squirted lighter fluid on the jungle gym and thought it would burn off, not set the thing on fire. Very stupid. Also very plausible. The kids aren't really criminals, just criminally stupid this time. Let's get back to discussing Crazy Gerry and the Pizza Guy. They're the real criminals.
May 16, 2011, 12:04 pm
PS29 Parent from Cobble Hill says:
It sounds like Lulabelle has knowledge of the teens that set the fire. That info needs to be forwarded to the NYFD.
May 16, 2011, 12:13 pm
judah-spechal from bed-stuy says:
It never fails criminals get viewed differently depending on their neighborhood. It the was in the hood the tone of this article would be more damning, condemning.

When people talk about America falling behind, this is an example of it. The people with the resources, their offsprings ain't doing diddly swat to uphold their lot except f'ing around. Guliani kid got off so why shouldn't this rich kid?? This is the America way. He or they are privileged. Where Palin?

So let keep making the privilege sect smaller in America. The only thing that will achieve are fewer offsprings to burn few kiddie parks.
May 16, 2011, 12:52 pm
Kate from Boerum Hill says:
Judah: You think the tone of this article is sympathetic to these brats????
May 16, 2011, 1:12 pm
adam from bedstuy says:
umm, they committed a crime. and, as another poster pointed out, if this happened in the "hood" i'm sure there would have been a lot of law and order comments. while paying for what they did is a great help, it does not buy immunity. furthermore, i just hope the same letbygonesbebygones attitude be carried over for other youthful offenders who are blessed with a little more melotonin.
May 16, 2011, 1:27 pm
Henry from Carroll Gardens says:
The kids should do some sort of community service, and restitution should be made, we should not put stupid kids in prison. They should be punished but not lynched.
May 16, 2011, 3:05 pm
k from gp says:
If kid from the projects took a $100 iPhone, people would be up in arms to get him/her put in jail. Torch a $50,000 playground and you get a slap on the wrist?
May 16, 2011, 3:43 pm
K. from ArKady says:
A fairly important lesson to learn if you happen, as we do, to live in an oligarchy.
May 16, 2011, 10:04 pm
pink monkey from banana says:
we need more bananas!!!!@!@
kids no start fire if they have bananas
May 16, 2011, 10:21 pm
Faber’s says:
If the vandals who perpetrated this mess were non-white, they would be in jail by now.

This is yet another example of rich kids of privilege getting away with something. They need to be put through the system like anyone else.
May 17, 2011, 3:12 am
Mark from Cobble Hill says:
The hypocrisy of most of these comments is astounding. The vandals should not be made examples of simply because they are wealthy. Let's remember that they had the poise to come forward when this thing got out of control. Also let's remember that the vandals are minors, and that vandalism is generally a misdemeanor not punishable by imprisonment (50,000 dollars is a generous overcompensation for what the damage looks like from the published photos).

Finally, for all of you out there who hate people because they have money (whether earned or not), please notice where PS 29 is located, one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in all of New York City by any standard. The kids who attend PS 29 are not impoverished inner-city kids but are in fact much closer on the income scale to the vandals.

Boys will be boys, how about a little empathy New York?
May 17, 2011, 7:23 pm
judahspechal from bed-stuy says:
You know Mark in our society we have empathy for people who good or bad accept responsibility. Not sending your lawyer out to speak with the PD & Media while waving a big check and hiding your identity.

Most people in society don't have resource to do that, but we all wish we had.

For you not to understand why people are beating up on these kids (warranted or not) you truly have blinders on to what's going on in society today so let me clue you in. ( Eco-collapse, bailout, unemployment, depress wages, longer hours, gas prices, higher prices)

That my friend doesn't not garner must empathy. It said elitist, priviledge.
May 18, 2011, 10:50 am
Betty from Boerum Hill says:
So a couple of St. Ann's kids torch the PS 29 playground? If it wasn't so abysmally, dangerously stupid of an act it would be funny. The real danger would be that someone would have gotten hurt; but aside from that it really makes you wonder about the "gifted" students at old St. As. I guess it's not quite the institution of higher learning that it used to be. Or maybe being high was the problem....

Of course they have to be punished! I don't think anyone is suggesting otherwise, regardless of their parents feeling awful and volunteering to pay for the damage.
May 18, 2011, 3:51 pm
Marie from Cobble Hill says:
MARK:

"Let's remember that they had the poise to come forward when this thing got out of control."

What the hell are you talking about? Things were out of control when the fire was raging...if it was truly an accident that might've been the time to come forward and call the FD asap.

I'm confused.

Oh, wait! You mean out of THEIR control when they realized that cutting an anonymous check wasn't going to get the NYPD off their backs. Got it.
May 18, 2011, 4:18 pm
Marie from Cobble Hill says:
PS The damage is going to cost 50k to replace (not to mention that the kids at that school have nowhere to play for the rest of the school year).
May 18, 2011, 4:19 pm
Geri from Brooklyn Heights says:
It's not mutually exclusive that the parents make restitution to the community and the kids still have to go through the criminal justice system and make their own restitution to society.

I'd like the parents of all -pick your adjective- rotten/mischievous/underprivileged/overprivileged kids who get into trouble be held responsible. The density of urban living requires a increased level of concern for public safety/
May 19, 2011, 10:58 am
Moira from Cobble Hill says:
First "the community" was outraged that this fire was maliciously set by underprivileged hoodlums from the projects (we all know who they meant). Class resentment, they said.
Now we know that the fire was a product of teenage stupidity by kids who live in this tony neighborhood, from the same socioeconomic strata that goes to PS 29. A neighborhood where many of the parents bought million dollar brownstones so they could avail themselves of the free education this excellent school provides.
I don't see where any of these kids are "getting off", in spite of the fact that most of the kids' names will not be publicized because they are on the "right side" of 16.
Ponying up for the damage their kids have done doesn't tell me these parents think their kids will be absolved of guilt or punishment.
We're lucky our next door neighbors could put together the money to see that the jungle gym is repaired.
Those "other" kids' parents couldn't have managed it. In fact, those "other" parents couldn't have afforded the legal protections most of our kids can take for granted.
May 22, 2011, 10:08 am
Christian from Cobble Hill says:
Why are so many people so judgmental here? Me and my friends also used to play with fire when I was a kid, even though our parents of course told us not to. 15-16 is a little old to muck around with fire, but it seems like this is more a case of stupidity (and an accident) than criminal malice. All this outrage here is grossly disproportionate. And if my kid had done this, I would do exactly the same thing as their parents, who wouldn't?!
May 27, 2011, 11:59 pm

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