Volume 76, Number 6 | June 28 - July 4 2006

Father keeps watch over park’s dinosaur memorial

By Anindita Dasgupta

Greg Richards and his family refer to the small park on Downing St. as, “The Dinosaur Park,” on account of the five-and-half foot yellow dinosaur located in the middle of the park. Sometimes he and his wife sing “the dinosaur song” with their three-year old twins before they come to the park. To the Richards and many other Village families, the dinosaur serves as a climbing and resting spot for children. To Andrew Moszynski, however, the dinosaur is a tribute to his son, Theo, who at 4 1/2 years, died of brain cancer in 2003.

Andrew Moszynski stationed the dinosaur in the Downing St. Park in October of 2004. He recalled that Theo loved dinosaurs and the color yellow and enjoyed playing in the Downing St. playground. Moszynski credits his mother in law, Maryann Hoberman, with coming up with the idea to build the dinosaur in the first place. “We thought we would make a yellow dinosaur for him so kids could play with it,” he said.

Moszynski knew that constructing this dinosaur would be expensive, and with the help of his family, they wrote letters to friends and family, asking for help in paying for the $15,000 structure. In five months, the construction company, Vito Cannella, completed the dinosaur, and without much trouble from the city’s Parks Department, the dinosaur was placed in the park in the fall.

Since then, the dinosaur has played a special role for children frequenting Downing St. Park. Stray crayon marks of red and green and a darkening tail attest to the dinosaur’s use. Children lounge on its flattened back, trace the shape of its tail with a toy car, or run to it as a “home-base” during a game of tag. “It is super popular,” Moszynski said. “Anytime you go there, there are kids all over it.”

Despite its popularity, the dinosaur has had a difficult run over the last two years. Moszynski and his family have paid for damage to the dinosaur twice now. Last year it was vandalized, with what Moszynski believes to be a heavy weapon such as a hammer or a baseball bat, creating holes in the dinosaur’s head. “That was vandalism,” he said. “There’s no doubt about it.”

Moszynski suspects that elementary school kids were responsible for the vandalism, but attributes the lack of play space as the real reason. “There aren’t enough parks,” he said. “Kids get out of school and have no place to go so they come to this place and this is really for little kids. In a way you can’t blame them.” As no one was ever charged for the acts, Moszynski did not press charges.

Recently, Moszynski relived this nightmare, when more damage was done to the dinosaur in May. He is not sure whether this damage (mostly delivered to the dinosaur’s neck) was a result of vandalism or older kids climbing on the dinosaur who could not hold the extra weight. This time, Cannella repaired the damage asking only for the price of the materials, about $300, said Moszynski.

Regardless of the repair price, the damage to the dinosaur was painful for Moszynski and his family to bear. “It is very distressing for us,” he said. He said he wanted to position a plaque in the park, explaining the dinosaur’s story. He is now trying to raise funds to resurface the dinosaur to help with cleaning and make sure it won’t get as dirty. However, he expects the process to cost between $1,500 and $2,000. Those interested in helping Moszynski pay for the process may email him at megamo@dway.net.

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