Arsonist torches Torresdale's pristine Pleasant Hill Playground

Posted: February 04, 2014

JASON GIAMMARCO drove to Torresdale from Kensington yesterday so his three children could enjoy the climbing towers, slides and tunnels of Pleasant Hill Playground on the banks of the Delaware River. He was pushing his son Logan, 1, on the swings when he noticed black smudges on the little boy's hands and jeans.

Giammarco quickly realized they were from the fire-blackened safety surface under the swings and nearby climbing apparatus where Logan had been playing earlier under the watchful eye of his sister Dakota, 10.

Two weeks ago, an arsonist used accelerant to set fire to three swings, including one that was specially equipped for children with physical disabilities.

The fire blackened the support structure for all the swings and for a nearby climbing tower, and turned a large area of the playground's safety surface into a charred mess that stained kids' clothes and sneakers yesterday.

The fire also scarred the spirit of peaceful, 35-acre Pleasant Hill Park less than a year after the grand opening of the $2.9 million family paradise.

City Councilman Bobby Henon, whose 6th District contributed $580,000 to the Pleasant Hill Park makeover, told the Daily News he is working with the city's Parks & Recreation Department to repair the damage by spring, when the playground will be crowded with children.

"To be honest with you, I'm disgusted," Henon said. "To light playground equipment on fire is a disgrace, and that kind of behavior is extremely dangerous.

"A bunch of hoodlums and creeps set fire to playground equipment that they know is there for kids to enjoy? That tells you what kind of people they are."

Deputy Mayor Michael DiBerardinis, who supervises Philadelphia's parks, said, "It is sad and hard to understand why anybody would think of doing this" to one of the jewels of the city's recreation system.

"This kind of ticks me off," said Giammarco, pushing little Logan on a surviving swing next to two burned-out ones.

He's taken his other son, Justin, 9, to Pleasant Hill Park ever since Justin was old enough to drop a line into one of the catch-and-release fish ponds stocked with bass, sunfish and carp.

"When the season starts in the spring, I bet I catch more fish than you," Justin told his dad.

"He trash-talks me all the time," Giammarco said. "But sometimes he does catch more fish."

Ed Ostrowski drove from Frankford to watch his grandson, Eric Bennett, 4, run full-speed all around the playground.

"You were like greased lightning, pal," he told Eric, who grinned before taking off again.

Ostrowski surveyed the fire damage and said, "I can't believe they did that. No regard for nothing or nobody."


Twitter: @DanGeringer

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