BROWNSVILLE — The rolldown gate that crushed a 12-year-old boy to death next to his home Sunday will be removed in the wake of the horrific incident, according to reports and elected officials.
Speaking at a vigil Monday night for Yakim McDaniels — who was killed by the automatic gate while reportedly playing a game of "chicken" with friends by seeing who could hang onto it the longest — City Councilman Charles Barron told the grieving crowd that the gate's owner promised to take it down following the accident.
"Tonight the owner said next week they're taking the gates down," Barron said, as more than 100 mourners gathered in front of 230 Lott Ave. Monday for a vigil where McDaniels was killed a day earlier.
"It's a shame we had to wait for a death for this to happen."
Omni New York LLC, which owns the parking lot and adjacent housing complex where McDaniels lived, reportedly confirmed it would remove the gate but has denied any responsibility in the boy's death. The company counts former New York Met Mo Vaughn as co-founder.
A spokesperson for Omni did not immediately return a request for comment Tuesday, but the company did confirm it intended to pay for the boy's funeral.
Community members said at the vigil they had been concerned for a while about kids playing on the gate.
"We've been asking for months to take them down," said Tyease Clark, 26, who has lived in the housing complex for four years. "Why didn't [security] tell the kids to be off the gate?"
A company spokeswoman said a staffed security booth sits on the opposite end of the parking lot from the Lott Avenue gate.
Barron added that Omni also agreed to build some type of recreation space for children on the complex's property so they would have a safe place to play.
Neighbors said earlier in the day that the lack of recreation space in the area has forced children to find other places to play.
"There's no place for them to play," said Pepsi Hayward, 32, who lives in the complex. "I sometimes organized party for the kids in the hallway during the weekend, and just after a few minutes they called the cops in.
"There's just no place for them to go out here."
Another resident said many local children would play on the gate at the entrance to the parking lot, where a basketball court used to sit.
"The gate is the only place for the kids to go to," said Nagrmak Evans, 18, who grew up in the neighborhood. "Everybody's kids play with the gate. Even the girls play with it."
McDaniels mother Doris Chase, overcome with emotion at the vigil, spoke briefly to attendees.
"Thank you for your support," she said, fighting back tears.
Beyond the promised changes, mourners were left to grapple with losing someone in their community at such a young age.
"It's our child," Clark added, "even though he's not my child."