LIDO BEACH, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Two Long Island men who were kicked off a Lido Beach playground say signs in the park do not make it clear that childless adults are not allowed.
Ryan Mallon and Enrique Montanez are gymnastics coaches and often film each other exercising outdoors. While practicing their moves last week, their camera was rolling when two town of Hempstead public safety officers told them they were too old to be there and would have to leave, CBS2’s Emily Smith reported.
“Bottom line is I don’t like pedophiles, and you guys hanging around a bunch of little kids makes you look like pedophiles,” one of the officers said, a comment that offended the men.
The officers told Mallon and Montanez that under town policy they couldn’t be anywhere inside the playground. But the signs do not make that clear, Smith reported.
“We’re just having fun,” Montanez said. “I don’t get it. Why do I have to be a pedophile for having fun in a park?”
A Hempstead town spokeswoman told CBS2 that while the public safety officer has been counseled on his public interaction, the town’s first priority remains the safety of the children using the playground. The town also stands behind the officer’s threat to ticket the men for refusing to immediately leave.
The town added that its public playgrounds are only for town residents, which neither of the men are.
Across the country, municipalities are banning childless adults from playgrounds to protect against pedophiles. As elsewhere, Hempstead’s ban is dividing residents.
“I can’t think of any reason why a single man would actually be in a playground without any kids,” said Brian Rosenberg. “Makes no sense to me.”
“Think it’s absolutely ridiculous,” countered Mark Feldman. “It’s unfair. It’s totally unfair.”
Mallon and Montanez said they have consulted an attorney but are not looking to sue.
“Ultimately, we don’t want to get the cop in any trouble,” Mallon said. “This isn’t about an anti-law or an anti-authority. This is really more about a message of understanding.”
Both men also said they would not have entered the playground if the signs made it clear they were not allowed there.