Outrage Over 'Jail' On Brooklyn Playground

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Fake Jail on playground
From The New York Times:

Playground controversies usually involve bickering parents, unruly dogs or bullies.

One exception is at the Tompkins Houses, a city housing project in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, where an orange jungle gym adorned with the word “Jail,” a cell door and prison bars has, six years after its installation, set off outrage in the neighborhood and the blogosphere, along with a hasty official response.

Children may play cops and robbers all the time, but putting a pretend jail in a public housing playground in a historically black community struck some residents as an insult.

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“We started complaining because it was like promoting kids to go to jail,” said Natasha Godley, 37, who has a 6-year-old son.

The prison look, including the offending word, was part of the original design of the playground, which was made by a company called Landscape Structures and erected in March 2004, the New York City Housing Authority said on Wednesday.

But it had not elicited complaints until this week, said Sheila Stainback, an agency spokeswoman.

Lumumba Bandele, a lecturer in black history at the City University of New York who lives nearby, said he began complaining to the housing authority and local officials about the playground this past weekend.

“The fact is that this community along with six others in New York City makes up the majority of the prison population in New York State,” he said. “And to have this here under the auspices of NYCHA is absolutely insulting.”

The jungle gym, tucked behind a building near Throop and Park Avenues, sits across from a handball court adorned with paintings of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.

On Sunday, the Web site Black and Brown News published a photo of the jungle gym by Mr. Bandele’s wife, Monifa Bandele, accompanying a critical article about it.

“There is no kind, gentle, diplomatic way to describe the offense against a community by this ‘Jail Playground’ on a New York City Housing Authority property,” the article began.

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