Community petitions to add gates to Forest Hills park

By Gabriel Rom

Alexa Weitzman, a Forest Hills community activist, was watching her young son play in Katzman Playground in Yellowstone Park when he briefly drifted out of her sight. Weitzman immediately looked to the three large, permanently open gates which led to the street. For a moment, she feared the worst.

She soon found her boy, but the gates and the traffic rushing behind them irked her.

As a result, she started a petition to install a locking mechanism for the gates, which she said would create a much safer park environment and give worried parents some peace of mind.

“Please help us make this great park safer and potentially prevent a wandering child from heading out of the playground and into traffic,” reads the petition, which is addressed to the city Department of Parks & Recreation, Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz.

Weitzman, who has already reached out to Parks, said a representative from the department is scheduling a meeting with her and that the agency seems to be taking the issue seriously. A spokeswoman for Parks said it looked forward to meeting with concerned parkgoers.

Weitzman said she has not yet decided whether to formally submit the petition to Katz’s office, but she plans to raise the issue with Koslowitz.

According to Michael Cohen, a spokesman for Koslowitz, she endorses the concept of having a more secure park environment with closed gates.

“If this is what the community wants, she will ask Parks to price the project out and look to provide money for it,” Cohen said.

The petition, started on Sunday, had over 80 signatures by Tuesday evening and has received backing from residents.

“This is an easy solution that would greatly enhance the safety of children at the playground,” said Peter Beadle, a Forest Hills resident and member of Community Board 6.

“Locking gates installed would bring immense peace of mind to me when I bring my child to this great local playground, as it would to every caregiver,” said another concerned parent who signed the petition.

Weitzman also noted that locking gates are standard for many of the city’s larger parks, including Central Park, Prospect Park and Forest Park. She hopes that the city’s smaller parks will get the same treatment.

“Maybe this will spark some sort of reform,” she added. “These streets are so busy. Thank god nothing has happened, but it does seem like a problem with such an easy fix.”

Reach reporter Gabriel Rom by e-mail at grom@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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