About 20 demonstrators stood in front of on Main Street Saturday morning, demanding that the parcel of land known as become recreational space for local children.
“Open the Petrus Park!" chanted the protesters, consisting of residents and members of the Hands of Change civic group. "Sign the petition!”
Two years ago a six-foot fence was erected, surrounding the parcel, when the North Hempstead Housing Authority intended to turn this area into a 55+ senior moderate income housing development. While that project was voted down, the fence remains, and the parkland was never reopened.
The demonstrators protested in front of the bank because of the parent company, J.P.Morgan Chase's financial interest in the property.
"We do not have any responsibility for, or say in, the day-to-day management and operations of the property [Harbor Homes]," a Chase spokesman told Newsday.
Meanwhile, the Hands of Change aims to acquire at least 1,000 residents’ signatures to present at the July 31 town board meeting.
Gail Katz, a longtime resident of Port Washington, spoke about how the Petrus Park was open when she moved here 42 years ago, and the void that's been there since the installation of the fence.
“Suddenly they put up a notice,” Katz said. “One of the saddest things that I can see is kids who don’t have a spot to play and right across the street is a 3.3 acre country club, and 1.5 acres are not available for a park.”
“Many people have something to gain, but in my opinion more people have something to lose,” added Katz.
According to the children who attended the protest, they typically hang out in the parking lot, on Harbor Road, and on Lion’s Field. There is a small playground at Harbor Homes, but it is only open for kids younger than age 11. They sometimes go to Manorhaven Park, but they have to walk there.
“I don’t have young kids, my daughters are 16 years old and 11 years old, but the 11-year-old and even the 16-year-old needs a place to play or just hang out and talk,” said Harbor Homes resident Chrystal Joyner.
Several of the protesters emphasized that they were picketing to reopen the park, not to create another one.
“It was a park," Donna Rice said. "It’s not like we’re asking for something new. It was a park, and we’re asking for it back."