Teen Charged In Playground Fire

Independent/Christopher Cyphers, AeroVisionNY

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A 16-year-old girl was arrested and charged after a fire destroyed a playground in a Hampton Bays park on May 7, Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said on Friday afternoon.

The Hampton Bays Fire Department received multiple calls about the blaze in Foster Avenue Park, near Shinnecock Road, on Thursday just before 5:15 PM, Chief Chris Hansen said May 8. When firefighters arrived, they found the jungle gym set engulfed in flames, and surrounding trees were starting to catch fire. It took 20 to 25 minutes to fully extinguish the fire, Hansen said, adding police detectives took over the investigation.

The teen was charged as a juvenile with second-degree criminal mischief, a felony. Her name was not released. The case will be handled in family court, and she was arraigned by a judge online from police headquarters. She was released into the custody of her parents.

The value of the playground equipment damaged was in excess of $200,000, Southampton Town police said in a Friday afternoon statement.

The playground, about a decade old, was the vision of the community, according to the supervisor. He said he first met Councilwoman Julie Lofstad when she was with the Hampton Bays Mothers’ Association, advocating for the playground on the town-owned parcel.

“It’s, in a way, how Julie got started in government,” Schneiderman said, adding the playground was made possible through several fundraising efforts. “Many are upset that his playground, so hard to get built, has been destroyed.”

He said the town will work to rebuild the playground.

“We’re going to look and see if it’s covered by insurance,” Schneiderman said. “I’m confident that the town board will all agree to rebuild.”

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Thick, black smoke billowed out of the park when the playground set was ablaze. Independent/Courtesy of the Southampton Town Police Department

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