An Astoria playground named for one of New York's finest is getting a seedy reputation with local parents. NY1's Clodagh McGowan filed the following report.
Twenty-two years ago, rookie police officer Sean McDonald was shot and killed while interrupting a robbery in progress.
Now, "Sean's Place" park on 38th Street in Astoria may bear his name, but it isn't living up to his legacy.
"To know that this is his legacy is a bit disheartening,” said Yoselin Bugalo, an Astoria resident. "Especially someone who was such a member of the community."
While local parents love having the playground in walking distance from their homes, they say their children are finding evidence of "illegal activities" left behind from the night before.
"Yesterday, my friend's two-year-old was running around with a crack pipe in her mouth that had been laying on the ground here," said Jenn Schulte, an Astoria resident.
Schulte documents drug paraphernalia found and some of the quality-of-life issues at the park on Facebook, like sleeping homeless people and garbage.
Schulte says in the past, a volunteer resident would lock the gates every night to keep troublemakers out. But in past years, no one has stepped up to take on the task.
Now, residents are hoping the Parks Department will appoint a gatekeeper of sorts to do the job.
"Locking the playgrounds at night takes care of almost half the problem," said Brian McCoy, an Astoria resident.
"We just want a safe and secure place for our kids and just a nice place to come to every day," said Christine Haber, an Astoria resident.
Councilman Costa Constantinides says he's in the process of drafting legislation that would require the Parks Department to lock all children's playgrounds at 9 p.m. every night.
"Unless this park is locked every night, we're going to always have the opportunity for bad things to happen," Constantinides said.
In a statement, the Parks Department tells NY1, in part, “We are committed to exploring additional security measures in this park and will be working with the community on a plan to do so.”
An NYPD spokeswoman adds that the 114th Precinct has auxiliary pollice on patrol and will be sending more officers to the park as the weather warms up.
Going forward, there's a $1 million capital plan in the works to spruce up the playground. Construction is expected to begin this fall.