Parents call for handicap parking overhaul in Marine Park
“It’s just kind of a recipe for a tragedy.”
A group of Marine Park parents is calling on the city to reconsider the recent addition of handicap-accessible parking spaces at the Carmine Carro Community Center, a change that locals say puts kids in danger, despite good intentions.
To access the three newly installed spaces, visitors drive down what was a pedestrian pathway in the midst of the park’s heavily used playgrounds. According to parent Brittany Nunez, who says she discovered the pathway had been transformed into a roadway after she left a meeting at the community center last Wednesday, this design brings cars and children too close for comfort.
“There’ve been so many tragic stories about children and cars that make me cry. And a park is the one place kids can be a little freer,” Nunez said.
She started a petition that at first called for the spaces to be removed and was later updated to call for their redesign. The petition was “always about the means to which those spots were accessed, so that’s why I changed the title to reflect that,” Nunez explained.
Nunez’s petition has garnered more than 1,050 signatures since Wednesday. The updated version says the problem is “not about seniors vs. parents, as some have misconstrued. Far from it.”
Of particular concern to Nunez is the absence of a permanent barrier between the pathway-turned-access road and the playground entrance, leaving open the possibility that a driver could continue down the access road and into the playground rather than turning right to exit.
“These are the types of concerns that need to be addressed by the Parks Department,” Nunez said.
The recently installed spaces are part of a temporary pilot program, and were a small win for the area’s seniors and disabled placard users, who have been calling on the city to install accessible parking at the center for years. Though programming at the center is largely geared toward seniors, the center didn’t have dedicated disabled parking spaces until the pilot program began.
Local advocate Carl Fischer started a petition of his own last month calling on the city to construct 30 handicap-accessible spaces at the center.
“Launching this pilot was done in response to vocal community members who advocated for increased accessibility for people with disabilities,” said Anessa Hodgson, a spokesperson for NYC Parks.
When a group of local seniors began calling for disabled parking spaces at the community center in 2015, Parks Department spokesperson Maeri Ferguson said, “It would be super unsafe if we were allowing people to ride through an area that’s not really connected to a road,” according to a report from Brooklyn Paper.
The Parks Department has installed stop signs, a speed bump, a curb and a 5-mph speed limit along the roadway, and has said that the program will be reassessed when the pilot ends next year.
Nunez isn’t content with that answer, however. “As a mom, ‘watch and see’ is not what I want to hear. Watch and see what?” she said.
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