Several parents alleged that teenagers regularly hang out at Lakeside’s playground at night on weekends and that broken glass and other dangerous paraphernalia are left on the playground, where it could harm younger children who later play there. The meeting devolved several times into audience members shouting at one another and particularly at Palma. Several women in the audience’s last row stood in front of their chairs for much of the meeting and peppered Palma with angry questions and accusations whenever he tried to speak, even when answering one of their questions.
“This is not the inner city. This is Merrick!” one audience member called out.
Palma said the school district is working with the police department to better police the school grounds and deter trespassers. He said that since the weekend of Sept. 7 and 8, officers from the 7th precinct have been “making multiple drives through the back” of Lakeside every night. That weekend the police chased away teenagers from the property, and since then the police have not encountered any more trespassers, Palma said.
Many parents said the steps did not go far enough. Some suggested that Lakeside’s entire property should be fenced in or that the playground should be fenced in. Others said they wanted increased lighting, video cameras that could distinguish faces from several dozen feet away at night or silent alarms on the playground that would alert the police if tripped. Most said that the gates in back of Lakeside need to be locked at night on weekends.
Palma said on Sept. 27, after the meeting, that Lakeside’s custodians will now lock the gates on Fridays, and they will remain locked until Mondays. He also said that James O’Beirne, the district’s facilities director, was investigating options and costs to purchase additional lighting for the back of Lakeside, and the district had asked Intralogic Solutions, Inc., a Massapequa company that provides much of the district’s electronic security equipment, what options it has for higher-grade cameras. Any decision to spend new money would require a Board of Education vote.