EAST VILLAGE — Community members will get a chance to weigh in on a controversial plan to lower the fences around Tompkins Square Park playgrounds at a meeting hosted by Councilwoman Rosie Mendez and the city's Parks Department on Feb. 27.
The Parks Department currently plans to lower the fences around the two playgrounds at the southeast corner of the park from seven feet to four feet as part of a larger reconstruction project, claiming the high fences could obscure bad behavior and actually make the playgrounds less safe.
But community representatives say lowering the fences would expose children using the playgrounds to "vagrants" and drug paraphernalia in the park.
Mendez last year penned a letter to Parks Department Commissioner Mitchell Silver imploring him to reconsider the plan, pointing to reports of a violent homeless population and drug use from constituents and the local police precinct. The community board penned a resolution stating local parents believe lowering the fences would create a "serious safety issue" in light of the problems outlined in Mendez's letter.
The Ninth Precinct's commanding officer, Capt. Vincent Greany, told DNAinfo New York he also believes the fences should not be lowered while police work with other agencies to address homelessness and substance abuse issues in the park.
"I'm against the lowering of the fences," he said. "The fences help, especially around the playground. There is a homeless condition inside the park, which is being worked on by the Department of Homeless Services, our crisis outreach team, the Ninth Precinct — we do joint operations there.
"There are a lot of needles — there's a needle exchange program that takes place in the park," he added. "There are a lot of homeless services that are provided in and around the park."
Mendez in December met with Silver to reiterate her concerns and he committed to holding an information session to gather more feedback from community members before moving forward with the plan.
That meeting has now been set for Feb. 27 from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Saint Brigid-Saint Emeric Church at 118 Avenue B.
Department representatives, joined by Manhattan Parks Commissioner Bill Castro, will give a presentation with renderings on the current plan to lower the fences and will allow community members to weigh in on the design, according to Mendez's office. The department has pledged it will not finalize its plan for the park until after it hears from community members at the meeting.
A Parks spokeswoman said the Ninth Precinct had agreed to collaborate with them on revamping the park, and that the department continued to believe the design would be beneficial.
"We’re confident that this design approach will increase accessibility and safety at the park," said Parks Department spokeswoman Crystal Howard.