BINGHAMTON, NY – City officials have stressed that no connection between yesterday’s marches, one of which ended at the park, and the fire has been established.
And the Mayor of Binghamton and the woman who first conceived of the playground say it will rise from the ashes, better than ever.
The playground’s construction began in March 2016 by Parks and Rec employees and over 900 volunteers who logged 5,200 hours of work.
All in an effort to make Project Manager Jen O’Brien’s dream a reality.
“You build something and you wonder if it really made a difference or did someone just take it for granted. To see how appreciated and loved the project was, and the hope for what it can be like moving forward, it’s really been quite an experience,” says O’Brien.
O’Brien, who also founded the Magic Paintbrush Project and directs American Special Hockey Association, lead the effort with help from students from the Pricewaterhouse Coopers Scholars at Binghamton University.
Since its opening, it has attracted families, especially those with special needs children, from across the Northeast, making it another attraction in the city’s most prominent park.
“We are not going to be defined by this one act. We are not going to be deterred by this cowardly act of destruction in our community. That rebuilding begins today,” says Binghamton Mayor Rich David.
Plus many pledges of support to rebuild.
The loss is particularly difficult for the children who attend Horace Mann Elementary across the street.
Principal Peter Stewart says the students use the playground for recess and their families use the park on weekends and evenings.
“Yesterday, the community came out in force and there was a peaceful protest, a very clear message. And then you have something like this that happens, and you just can’t make sense of it because this hurts so many of the kids in our community, but also it’s just senseless,” says Stewart.
Mayor David says whatever damage the arsonists looked to inflict on Binghamton will be short-lived and he pledged to find the funds to rebuild.
“People always come together to protect friends, complete strangers. In this community, there’s not a doubt in my mind that that will continue,” says David.
O’Brien, who is out-of-town but has been up all night following messages from supporters says the outpouring from the community has been overwhelming.
“We’re going to reimagineer. That’s been my word all day: “reimagineer” this thing and really take it from where it’s at and let it grow beyond that,” says O’Brien.
A playground built by the community for all of the community, no matter what their ability.
Nearly $30,000 had been raised on a Go Fund Me site as of 6 PM Monday, which will be donated to a fund established by the Community Foundation of South Central New York.