Parents meet with pol at ‘grimey’ playground

Residents: Homecrest Playground literally going to pot
Photo by Steve Schnibbe

They weren’t playing anymore.

Concerned Sheepshead Bay residents met with their councilman on Aug. 25 to demand action at a playground where parents say they don’t feel safe taking their children.

Several dozen concerned parents gathered with their children at Homecrest Playground to voice their grievances to Councilman Chaim Deutsch (D–Sheepshead Bay) about quality-of-life problems at the playground and the surrounding area.

“This is a grimy place,” said Regina Groyzburg, a member of the “Save Homecrest Playground” Facebook group. “I live two blocks away but most of the time I end up taking my kids to parks in Dumbo or Brooklyn Heights. It isn’t fair.”

The meeting came a week after police from the 61st Precinct pulled over a car on E. 11th Street, found drugs and pills, and arrested the five men inside — who had just left the playground.

After this paper reported on the arrest and spoke to Deutsch and members of the Facebook group, Deutsch joined the group himself and arranged to meet with members inside the park as police cruisers periodically circled around the area and officers patrolled on foot.

The councilman promised the parents he would work to improve safety in and around the playground.

“Everyone has a right to enjoy the park,” Deutsch said. “But if you want to use or sell drugs, don’t come out to the community and do it there.”

The playground is bordered on one end by the Belt Parkway and Shore Parkway, and the E. 12th Street overpass bridge on one side, creating an isolated area of low visibility that provides cover and easy escape for troublemakers.

“Just because Homecrest Playground is on the fringe of the neighborhood by the Belt Parkway doesn’t mean it should be ignored,” he said.

The councilman said he’s working with 61st Precinct commanding officer Capt. William Faison to increase police presence around the playground, but Deutsch said there was only so much he and the police can do, and encouraged concerned locals to play their part, as well.

The playground is supposed to close at dusk, but some entrances lack gates, and even those that have them often remain open all night. Deutsch said he has spoken with the Parks Department about installing a gate at the Homecrest Avenue exit, but suggested that locals take turns volunteering to close the gate each night.

“I visit the parks in my district regularly,” he said, “but the people who come here all the time know what goes on here better than anyone else. I encourage everyone to contact my office, the police, or to call 311.”

But some of the residents at the meeting — who complained about homeless people trying to sell toys to their children and even strange men recording video of kids — said that neither 311 or the police have been much help in the past.

One woman who lives around the corner from the playground said that teenagers and vagrants hang out on her property and even try to break into her house, but calls to the police had poor results.

“This is starting to move out of the playground and onto the streets,” said the woman, who declined to give her name for fear of retaliation. “One man was in my backyard trying to enter my house. My daughter was hiding in the bathroom with a kitchen knife. I called the police and they showed up on horseback. Other times they haven’t shown up at all.”

Reach reporter Eric Faynberg at (718) 260–2508 or by e-mail at efaynberg@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @ericfaynberg.