Volume 73, Number 50 | April 21 - 27, 2004

Officers are accused of parking violation at P.S. 64

By Elizabeth O’Brien

At the Robert Simon Educational Complex on Avenue B, recess is a highly regulated affair. That’s because the 800 children in the complex’s three schools must share a small playground, while their larger yard is filled with cars belonging to school safety agents.

On Monday, parents and elected officials held a press conference to pressure the city to remove the cars, which organizers said have parked on the lot since the 1980s. They had hoped the cars would finally clear out last year, after the Division of School Safety moved its headquarters out of the building.

When the cars remained, and Department of Education officials did not offer a schedule for their removal, the community began to take action.

“Without a timeframe, we said we’d go ahead and push it a little bit,” said Lisa Donlan, mother of a seventh-grade daughter, in a telephone interview.

Donlan said the community needed to know when the cars would move because they have lined up foundations prepared to use grant money to resurface the lot and convert it to recreational uses. She said a mix of vehicles parked in the lot, including the personal cars of school safety employees who work throughout the city and a big truck with a “scanner” that made its first appearance on Monday.

Joining parents of students at Tompkins Square Middle School, Earth School and Public School 64 were City Councilmember Margarita Lopez and Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum. Gotbaum recently released a report on obesity among New York City public school children.

“When so many of our children are overweight, it is deplorable that more resources are not put toward their physical education,” Gotbaum said in a statement. Forty-three percent of the city’s public elementary school students are either obese or overweight, according to Gotbaum’s office.

Lopez recalled when the lot used to have basketball and hardball courts open to the entire public.

“They took critical areas that belonged to the community for parking spaces,” Lopez said.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education was quoted as saying that school and police officials were working to restore the playground as soon as possible.

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