QUEENS — Forest Hills residents concerned about their neighborhood park have formed a group to fight for improvements at the popular green space, which they said is not safe for their kids.
Yellowstone Park Alliance was created last week by Alexa Weitzman, a Forest Hills mom, who lives near Yellowstone Park and goes there nearly every day with her 20-month-old son.
In December, Weitzman started an online petition in which she asked the Parks Department to install a locking mechanism on the gates at the park's Katzman Playground.
The gates, adjacent to busy streets including Yellowstone Boulevard, were chained open, with no option to close them, which parents said was dangerous for children, who could easily run out of the park.
As of Wednesday morning the petition was signed by more than 120 people.
After Weitzman started the petition, the Parks Department unchained the gates, which can now be closed.
But because they are 8-feet-tall and made of heavy cast iron, moving them requires a lot of strength, Weitzman said.
"It’s not ideal, but they do close," said Weitzman, adding that local parents are now hoping that more functional gates will eventually replace the leaden ones.
Weitzman has recently met with representatives from the Parks Department, who said they would evaluate the situation, she said.
She also noted that following their suggestion she has formed the alliance to hear from other parkgoers about their needs and concerns regarding the green space.
Frank Gulluscio, district manager at Community Board 6, which covers Forest Hills and Rego Park, said that CB6 supports Weitzman’s efforts.
“There is lots and lots of little kids over there, there is no question about it, and it’s good for the safety of the kids,” Gulluscio said.
But the problem, he said, is who would pay for the new gates.
Michael Cohen, a spokesman for Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz, said that the councilwoman would be willing to cover the cost, but she can’t commit to it until she knows the price tag.
The Parks Department said that it’s looking “forward to working closely with this newly forming organization to continue to improve conditions at Yellowstone Park.”
The agency also said that it’s exploring various options regarding the gates but it’s too early to discuss any details.
Meanwhile, the new group has been growing and as of Wednesday morning had nearly 160 members on Facebook.
Weitzman said that she hopes to include all residents who come to the park, like dog owners, teens playing at the basketball court and local parents who would all share “what they think could be improved.”
She already received some ideas and concerns. Some suggested adding more trees and plants to the park, while others pointed out that the surface under the play equipment was not soft enough and that the dog run was too small, Weitzman said.
At some point, she said, she hopes that people interested in getting involved would meet in person and volunteer to help improve the park.