MERRICK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — It’s neighbor against neighbor in one long Island town, over whether to build a playground in an empty park.

It would be paid for with grant money, but when neighbors facing the park showed up in opposition at a town hearing, the project was put off.

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Tiny Wynsem Park in Merrick is quiet most of the time. Set in an upscale neighborhood, it has a few benches and some trees, but little else. Parents with children have been demanding more.

“There should be a playground here. There’s a beautiful space here, and there’s nothing for children to do in it,” Debbie Wizel said.

Local leaders agreed and managed to raise $200,000 in grants and donations to build the playground, but when it came time to accept the grant money to start construction, the Hempstead Town Board voted 4-2 to postpone their vote because of vocal opposition from neighbors living across from the park.

One council member blasted the decision.

“This is a stunning lack of leadership by our supervisor,” Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney said.

Town Supervisor Anthony Santino said a timeout is needed to address the neighbor’s concerns. Opponents said it’s a safety issue, pointing out the park is near a blind curve where drivers often speed through, despite a 10 mph speed limit.

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“You add an extra population of kids here playing, and they will inevitably wander into the street. It’s a cocktail for disaster,” Aaron Goldsmith said.

Park neighbors also worry about losing their parking spots and getting unwelcome visitors.

“Maybe just kids hanging out, drinking, loitering, making lots of noise, that’s what I would think,” Liz Mastro said.

One playground supporter pointed out that the park closes at dusk to keep bad actors out.

“There hasn’t been any major crime activity there, and children on a playground aren’t going to bring any criminality there,” Matthew Field said.

Field said in a town survey that most residents supported the playground, but the town supervisor said there will be no vote on the playground until there is a consensus among battling neighbors.


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