A skate park behind P.S. 304 is causing teachers and parents of the school a lot of grief, and cleaning it up has proven to be a challenge. The building, where P.S. 304 is located, is also home to two other schools, M.S. 101 and P10, a small school for students with disabilities. All three schools use the playground, which contains one of the few skate parks in the Bronx, and also some basketball courts.
Because the playground is open to the public, in recent months drug paraphernalia, used condoms, and spent alcohol bottles have been found littering the ground. People have also been seen urinating there during school hours. Faculty and members of the PTA are furious. There has been some graffiti as well, though that is the least of it.
“Yesterday one of our teachers walked out of the building at 5 o’clock, and there were two teens having sex, right there in the skate park,” said Maggie Perez, PTA president. “One of our young students went out there recently and returned with a bottle of Jack Daniels. And a pre-K parent told me she has seen crack vials out there.”
In order to get into the skate park, one has to walk through the schoolyard; this is the biggest concern of parents. The open access has made it so that adults and older kids are often hanging out in the playground during the day, when young children are mere feet away, lining up for class or lunchtime.“While the kids go out and have lunch, older men are zooming through there on bikes and skateboards,” said Perez.
The PTA meeting last Tueday, May 11, focused on this issue. “Hot topic on Agenda: Not at My School!” reads the flier for the meeting. A representative from Councilman James Vacca’s office attended the meeting, and has said that for the most part, the paraphernalia showing up in the morning is not from hard drugs, but typically bags from marijuana and mostly beer bottles. Still, parents do not want the situation to be minimized.
“People say ‘Oh, it’s only pot bags.’ Well, those matter. And it’s the alcohol, and it’s grown men riding in on bicycles,” said Perez.
Vacca, in a walkthrough of the playground last Friday, May 14, noted that for one thing, there was litter everywhere. “Where’s the wastebasket?” he wondered before finding one small trash container in the corner of two fences. “When these things happen in a park, it reflects on everyone,” said Vacca. “The city’s Parks Department and the 45th Precinct need to address this together. We will not stand for this here. It’s unacceptable.” Two teachers have been mugged in the playground early in the morning, and also have said that a smell of urine can be detected in the cafeteria, which is on the level of the playground, just beyond the doors.
In a perfect world, the PTA says, the New York City Parks Department could make the playground closed to the public, changing it to a space exclusively for the school’s use. But even the angriest people involved know that this isn’t an option. At this point, what parents and teachers would like is for the playground to be closed at night, or to at least have special officers guarding it in the evenings.
The Throggs Neck Community Action Partnership applied for and received a grant from Congressman Joseph Crowley, through Crime Stoppers, for $10,000. They hoped to get cameras and lights installed, but have learned that the $10K will only cover the security cameras.
“Still, it’s a start,” said Fran Matauro. “We also want a grant to pay for overtime for police officers in the 45th [precinct] to monitor areas of the community that have illegal activity.”
Police Commissioner Kelly would have to approve that himself. For now, the Parks Department has agreed to begin locking the gate at night.