By Rich Bockmann
Marie Curie Park in Bayside, like Francis Lewis and Bay Terrace playgrounds, contains basketball courts, fitness equipment and a playground.
But unlike those playgrounds, Marie Curie is called a park, and community members want that name changed in order to keep out unwanted visitors.
“It is imperative that it be named not a park but a playground,” said Mandingo Tshaka, who submitted a petition to Community Board 11 with 240 names requesting the name be changed. “A park is … Central Park, Alley Pond Park, Kissena, Crocheron. You can do more in there, but a playground is more restrictive. It’s strictly for children.”
A sign outside Marie Curie Park, on 211th Street behind the middle school bearing the same name, informs visitors of the playground rules — the first being that adults are prohibited unless in the company of children.
“There are people coming in there that shouldn’t be in there,” Tshaka said. “Adults, drug dealers, people bringing pit bulls. People are smoking whatever they’re smoking — most likely pot.”
The longtime Bayside activist said he was recently informed by the community board that a number of the names and addresses on his petition were not from the immediate community.
“It’s true. Most of the names came from members of the Korean Presbyterian Church on 46th Avenue and 211th Street,” he said earlier this week. “On Sunday, they had three or four different services, and it’s their children who are going into the playground.”
A spokesman for the city Parks Department said that regardless of a property’s name, adults are prohibited from entering playground areas unless accompanied by a child, but Tshaka said the name should be changed regardless so that no one could exploit the ambiguity.
“If there were a conflict there … someone like me … if I had to go before a judge, I think I could argue that it’s a park and I should be allowed in there. Someone with a better understanding could challenge it in court,” he said. “It’s important those little children get the protection they need to keep the big bad wolves out.”
Tshaka said he had worked in the past with former City Councilman Michael Abel to acquire new equipment for the playground. The playground was reconstructed in 2000, the year after it was renamed after Marie Curie.
“What the hell did Marie Curie do anyway?” Tshaka asked.
Marie Curie discovered the chemical element radium and won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1911.
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.