Climbing fun, safety were in the cards at playground

Terri Cude, left, and Community Affairs Officer Martin Baranski coordinated to help make Operation Safe Child happen.

Terri Cude, left, and Community Affairs Officer Martin Baranski coordinated to help make Operation Safe Child happen.

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON  |  Kids hit the wall last Saturday — literally — at Mercer Playground, as police brought in a giant climbing structure as part of Operation Safe Child. In addition, nearly 50 kids got Safe Child ID cards, which include fingerprints of both index fingers, an up-to-date photo taken on site and detailed information about them.

Luckily, the torrential downpour held off until just after the event had ended.

Terri Cude coordinated the event on behalf of the Bleecker Area Merchants’ and Residents’ Association (BAMRA). She said it was two years in the making, and that she even personally bought a generator to power the printer that produced the ID cards on site. It was a good investment, she said, also coming in handy during the post-Sandy blackout to help light the lobby of 505 LaGuardia Place.

A girl got her fingerprint scanned for a Safe Child card.

A girl got her fingerprint scanned for a Safe Child card.

In addition to working with police, Cude posted fliers, plus had to get a Parks Department permit to use Mercer Playground for the event. Ironically, the city continues to argue that this strip — located on one of the N.Y.U. superblocks — is not a park, and plans to appeal Judge Donna Mills’s January ruling that this site and two others nearby are de facto parks.

Snacks were also provided, plus colored chalk sticks for drawing on the playground’s pavement and bubbles for blowing. And, as usual, kids were kicking soccer balls, riding scooters and generally scurrying around in the popular play space. 

Coordinating things on the police’s side were Community Affairs Officer Martin Baranski, from the Sixth Precinct, and Sergeant Michelle Martindale, of the New York Police Department’s Community Affairs Bureau. L.M.N.O.P., the group that created the playground, was also involved. 

Coby, a bomb-sniffing police dog, was also on hand, helping to do some wet-nosed community relations with the kids.

Although Cude is a co-leader of Community Action Alliance on N.Y.U. 2031, or CAAN, which opposes the university’s superblocks expansion plans, she noted that neither she nor CAAN were party to the community lawsuit on which Mills ruled earlier this year. 

Prinny Alavi got her daughter, Esfahan, 15 months, a Safe Child card. However, in hindsight, she had somewhat mixed feelings about it. 

A police officer belayed a young boy as he scaled the climbing wall.

A police officer belayed a young boy as he scaled the climbing wall.

“I saw the flier about two weeks ago, and I thought, ‘This is a good idea,’ ” Alavi said. “At the same time, this is putting our kid into the system. If I was African-American, I would have a problem with this.”

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