QUEENS — When Alexa Weitzman lost sight of her 20-month-old son on Sunday for several seconds while playing at a popular neighborhood playground, her heart sank, she said.
As she looked around Katzman Playground, at Yellowstone Park, she saw that its three gates, adjacent to busy streets, including Yellowstone Boulevard, were wide open.
The toddler was quickly located, but the Forest Hills mom said the experience prompted her to start an online petition on Change.org on that same day, in which she asked the Parks Department to install a locking mechanism on the gates.
“It was really alarming when I realized that it could have been really bad,” she said.
The playground, one of the most popular in the neighborhood, attracts numerous families with its swings for tots and hoop-shaped spray showers in the summertime.
“There are three gates opening directly to busy city streets that are locked in the open position all day long,” Weitzman wrote in the petition. “Allowing these gates to be opened and closed and installing a locking mechanism on each one would create a much safer play space.”
By Monday afternoon, the petition was signed by nearly 60 residents.
Weitzman said she talked about the issue with other mothers numerous times in the past but hasn’t done anything about it until now.
Several parents shared their concerns in comments posted underneath the petition.
“I have twins and live around the corner & hardly ever go to Yellowstone park for fear they will run out,” one mother wrote.
“My kids have run out of the park and I've had to chase them,” said another. “It scares the life out of me!”
Weitzman, who noted that many other playgrounds throughout the city have such safety features, said that once the petition reaches 100 signatures, she will send it to Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz, who represents the area, and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz.
Parks Department spokeswoman Meghan Lalor said Monday that the agency is looking “forward to meeting with local park users to discuss this proposal further.”