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Proposed Merrick playground draws community support, opposition

A playground proposal for Wynsum Avenue Park in

A playground proposal for Wynsum Avenue Park in Merrick, seen here on Oct. 7, 2017, has drawn critics and proponents. Credit: Johnny Milano

Some residents see a vacant field in Merrick as the perfect location to add a playground.

But nearby homeowners worry adding a playground will bring an increase in traffic, the potential for accidents and the noise of children playing and teenagers loitering nearby.

The 2.9-acre undeveloped Wynsum Avenue Park has become a boiling point for the south Merrick community, which brought a heated debate to the Hempstead Town Board last week over whether to add a playground.

The town board postponed a vote last week to approve receiving a $75,000 grant from Nassau County to add a playground on the green space positioned between houses at Wynsum Avenue and Illona Lane, on the Whaleneck Point peninsula.

“It’s absolutely mind-boggling how we can build a playground for the benefit of the community for free and all of a sudden we’re not going to, because residents are fighting about it,” said Jay Rogoff, who helped raise money for the playground. “It’s absurd.”

Hempstead Supervisor Anthony Santino requested the funding last year from Legis. Steven Rhoads (R-Bellmore), while the group Let’s Play 11566, which was formed to raise money for the playground, raised $25,000 to help cover the first phase of construction. Sen. John Brooks (D-Seaford) offered a separate $100,000 grant to build the playground.

The town conducted a survey of residents and found about two-thirds supported the project, but some residents said they were counted incorrectly or they were not considered because they had recently moved to the neighborhood.

After last week’s debate, board members voted 4-2 to table the vote to accept the grant funding, with council members Erin King Sweeney and Bruce Blakeman voting against tabling it.

Santino said he was reserving a decision on the project to allow residents to find a compromise, but King Sweeney and Blakeman said Santino should follow through with supporting the playground, which he backed in a May letter to the South Merrick Community Civic Association.

Some who live near the park, like Louis Gossert, 57, of Merrick, who lives across the street, said residents surrounding the park need to be considered.

“I’ve never felt the need or the void of having a playground at this park,” Gossert told the town board. “We have a right to our property values and the right to peace and quiet.”

But some supporters said they are concerned that if funding is not approved soon, they may lose the promised grants under a new county administration after the November election. And, they said, the playground will do no harm.

“This was the one thing missing from our dream home: a local park in walking distance,” said Bridget Cohen, who lives up the street from the park. “Adding to a park in our neighborhood would only enhance the lives of our children and families. Please do the right thing and let our children play.”

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