Pearl River Schools Clean up Central Ave. Field Memorial, Playground

By Ryan Buncher Pearl River Patch

The Pearl River School District administration responded quickly when resident Casey McGowan raised concerns regarding the condition of the 9/11 Memorial and the playground on the Central Avenue Field this week.

Pearl River Memorial before and after cleaning

Pearl River resident Casey McGowan found regularly brings her two-year-old son to the playground on the Central Ave. Field, right next to the 9/11 Memorial.

She was pleased by what she found there Wednesday.

“It looks great,” McGowan said.

Just two days earlier, McGowan spoke with Patch, raising concerns about the state of the field, particularly the memorial and the playground. The memorial was overgrown with weeds, as was at least one of the playground equipment. One of the fences on the gazebo was bent and one bench was missing a board.

“I have seen the center of our town, something that we should take pride in, deteriorate vastly and rapidly,” McGowan said Monday. “[The weeds overtaking the memorial] is so sad. We’ve lost a lot of people from Pearl River in September 11. It’s a shame we can’t take care of it. The condition it’s become is disrespectful.”

Upon being informed of the situation, Pearl River administrators moved quickly to address the situation, starting by removing the weeds from the memorial and playground.

Pearl River Superintendent of Schools Dr. John Morgano agreed that the upkeep of the field and the memorial are important. He said the district’s maintenance staff is tied up with getting the buildings ready at this time of year.

“We have somebody going over there to pull (the weeds) out,” Morgano said Tuesday. “In the summer, there is so much that needs to get done. We have our guys getting the buildings ready and some of that gets away from us. It does get away from us once in a while and it shouldn’t. With all of the rain and the heat, things are growing like crazy. It’s not an excuse. It shouldn’t happen.”

Pictures of the memorial and the playground are attached to this report, showing the conditions before and after the district acted. The memorial is a priority, with the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks less than a month away.

“It’s got to be in top shape on 9/11,” Morgano said. “We can’t have people go there on the anniversary and it is not.”

“It needs to be weeded,” said Pearl River Assistant Superintendent Sue Wheeler after she went over to the field to look at it Tuesday. “You need to continue to add mulch. It needs to be weeded and, like last fall, we put in fresh stuff to keep it up.”

The plantings around the memorial were also tended to this week, though some items are still in need of repair. McGowan said she was very happy to see the district’s quick response to the concerns about the field.

Morgano added that the gazebo’s fences are something the district has had to repair many times. He said that residents finding a problem should call him or Director of Operations Quinton Van Wynen. The superintendent’s office number is 845-620-3922 and Van Wynen can be reached through the business office, which is at 845-620-3911.

McGowan said she and other parents have also found broken bottles and drug paraphernalia on the field. She said she spoke to a police officer once about it, but has not filed a police report.

“What we tell people is if there are people there acting inappropriately, drinking and carrying on, call the police,” Morgano said. “We don’t give people a permit to drink alcohol on school property.” He added that if any group given a permit abuses the privilege, they would not be given permits again.

Orangetown Police Lt. Donald Butterworth said that it was important for residents to report problems at the field or anywhere in town.

“We would always suggest and hope that people, when they see things that are not appropriate going on, would call us at 359-3700,” Butterworth said. “If they advise us of the conditions, we can look into it.

“The school district has called us in on criminal activity on their properties. We do investigate when we are made aware of it.”

Butterworth said reports that include the timing of inappropriate activity could help the police deal with the issue.

“It also helps to get an idea when it might happen,” Butterworth said. “Is it weekend nights? Certain nights of the week? If there is a pattern, we can have better success.”

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