Officials Investigate Fire, Vandalism at Seward Park

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Police and fire investigators are looking into a series of unfortunate incidents in Seward Park during the past week.

Last night, Wednesday just after 9 p.m., a fire was reported outside the bathrooms on the east side of the park. No one was hurt, but today both the girls’ and boys’ bathrooms are closed. There’s still a strong smell of smoke in the area, there’s a hole in the ceiling of the girls bathroom and the electricity is out.

A shopping cart and other items belonging to a homeless woman were burned in the fire. Those charred items were piled up on the curb near the park entrance on East Broadway this morning.

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According to the 7th Precinct, officers responded last night to a report of a fire in the general area. The police report indicated a trash can fire at the corner of Essex and Canal streets. Six or seven teenagers (ages 14-15) were seen nearby before the fire started. [It’s unclear whether there were two fires, one on Essex Street and one in the park, or whether the initial information just got garbled.]

On Tuesday night, several teens set a small fire in a corner of the park during a showing of Singin’ in the Rain. It was quickly put out. The same evening, the front doors of the Seward Park Library were damaged. While they were quickly repaired, the public library’s security team is reviewing security camera tape to find out who might have been responsible.

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This morning, we walked through the park with Amy Robinson and Carol Anastasio of the Seward Park Conservancy. The homeless woman had been camped out with all her belongings in the garden on Wednesday, and according to park staff, had been there on Tuesday, as well, and had refused to move. Robinson called 311 and alerted Community Board 3. A staff member from the Department of Homeless Services tried to visit the woman this morning, but she wasn’t in the park today.

Community Board 3 is working on setting up an inter-agency meeting (involving Parks, police, Homeless Services, etc.) to address this week’s incidents. One major concern amongst members of the Seward Park Conservancy is that there’s no park staffing after 3 o’clock in the afternoon. The bathroom door should not have been open when the fire occurred last night, since the park closes at dusk.

We have contacted the Department of Parks, Homeless Services and the Public Library for more details. We’ll update this story if and when we hear back.