Battered backstop threatens Harlem school kids

HARLEM (WABC) -- "Batter up, heads up" took on new meaning at an elementary school in Manhattan after a baseball backstop collapsed at the field this past summer. And it's stayed on the ground, metal pieces jutting out, ever since.

It was a big hazard for kids, until they went to the bullpen and called for relief from 7 On Your Side.

The last time we asked the New York City parks department for help, they moved an abandoned boat that was a causing an issue in Sheepshead Bay, towing it away days after we sent them an SOS.

So when Eyewitness News got calls about the busted backstop stuck in a public school playground, the parks department would be the agency to throw a fastball and fix it. And after our calls, they took the extra step and carted it away.

Students throwing the ball outside PS 161 in Harlem had to make sure they avoided the mangled metal covering the southeast corner of the field.

"It needed to be removed immediately, not that 'we are going to get to it,'" principal Pamela Price said.

She says the eyesore on the mixed-use field shared by three schools and community groups collapsed over the summer, and she struck out getting the broken backstop out of there since school started.

"Nobody wants to remove it," she said. "For some kind of negligence of something that could happened to a child, and that's my bottom line. These are my kids."

The parks department immediately responded by putting safety barricades up, but parents and teachers said they kept getting knocked down.

"Our biggest concern is these sharp points and a kid tumbling onto that," PS 161 development dean Peter Kornicker said. "I have a horrible image of a kid getting impaled."

The secretary of the PTA said parents have complained to 311 for weeks.

"I've seen them come and look like it was a specimen," Price said. "But no one said, 'it's going to be gone in two weeks.'"

So 7 On Your Side put in a call to the parks department, which got on top of it by the time the bell rang the next morning.

"We were elated," Price said. "We ran to the window and were like, 'Yaay!'"

Now, the football team's coach can finally host a home game, and both student the community can enjoy the park space safely.

"Guys were out here this morning, took them less than an hour," coach Brien Ling said. "Field was clear, all the kids was smiling because of what you did."

A parks representative thanked Price for telling them about the battered backstop at the start of school. They said they secured the area and were taking steps for removal. But after our calls, they took the extra step and carted it away.
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