Nov. 13, 2023 By Iryna Shkurhan
Toddler swings at Queens Valley Playground near P.S. 164 in Kew Gardens Hills were set on fire early on Saturday, Nov. 11, in an alleged act of vandalism, according to authorities.
Images of the aftermath shared on X by @ViralNewsNYC showed the damage to six toddler swings that were burnt from the fire. The melted plastic also dripped down and damaged the rubber safety surface on the ground.
“In an act of hateful vandalism, the toddler swings were deliberately set afire, resulting in significant damage to the equipment and surrounding rubberized safety surface,” Council Member James Gennaro said in a statement. “It is terrible to witness such disregard for our community spaces, especially those designed for the enjoyment of our youngest residents.”
While some speculated that the incident was a hate crime, given the recent rise in hate crimes and the demographics of the area, officials confirmed that the arson was not an act of hate.
While the park is known to the community as Shabbos Park, a place where Jewish community members take their kids to play during the Sabbath, officials suspect that it was carried out by an emotionally disturbed individual after obtaining security footage of the incident.
According to the FDNY, a call reporting a rubbish fire at the playground came in at 4:18 a.m. on Nov. 11. They were able to put out the fire in 26 minutes and no injuries were reported as a result of the blaze.
After hearing about the incident, Gennaro reached out to Queens Parks Department Borough Commissioner, Jackie Langsam, who initiated the Parks Department to facilitate the removal of the melted swings and damaged rubber on Monday, Nov. 13.
By the time the students at P.S. 164 next door were dismissed from school, new swings and rubber ground were already installed.
But yellow tape still remains to close off the swings while the rubber safety surface adheres to the ground. Cold weather can slow down the process.
“I thank Borough Commissioner Landsam for her personal intervention and quick response,” said Gennaro, who visited the playground on Nov. 13 after the new swings were installed.
The 107th Precinct is asking any community members with any information about the incident to come forward to assist in the ongoing investigation. No arrests have been made.