Parents of the privileged teens who torched a Cobble Hill playground have set aside $50,000 to cover the damage, but critics say the PR move amounts to little more than a cynical sociology lesson about class — and, perhaps, the lack thereof.
The reckless juveniles set the playground equipment at PS 29 ablaze early last Sunday morning, shocking a neighborhood unaccustomed to such flagrant acts of vandalism.
Even as the toxic stench of scorched plastic hung heavy near the Henry Street school, the arsonists’ parents were already making calls to high-powered DUMBO criminal defense attorney Sam Gregory to set up a $50,000 bank account to pay for the damage done by their spawn.
“The parents were very upset about what happened, and they wanted to figure out a way to get that playground operational and up and running as soon as possible,” Gregory said, claiming that the blaze was an accident or a prank gone wrong. “Someone who did this intentionally wouldn’t go tell their parents.”
The teens set the blaze as an attempt to make a YouTube video of themselves sliding through a burning ring of fire, according to Fire Department spokesman Jim Long. But things went terribly awry, as the plastic slide quickly ignited.
Two of the teens, Max Layton and Bairn Sweeney, both 16-years-old, turned themselves in at the 76th Precinct stationhouse on Tuesday and are being charged as adults with arson and criminal mischief. Two others will be charged as minors, Long said.
Some neighbors were appalled that the vandals might be able to buy themselves out of trouble.
“I don’t think it’s right to buy your kids out,” said Cobble Hill resident Stephen Negrycz. “If they are guilty, they should face due process and punishment. I don’t think it’s helping them by giving the money.”
A Fire Department spokesman said fire marshal is still investigating the fire. Once the report is released, it will be up to the district attorney to pursue legal action.
That’s what some residents want.
“The law is here for everybody,” said a Cobble Hill resident who requested anonymity. “This just shows you that kids that have the resources, have an advantage.”
Principal Melanie Woods reportedly said she was pleased that parents ponied up to pay for the damages, which amount to $50,000, but would like the unidentified perpetrators to “take responsibility,” by publicly apologizing for their actions.
“So far, we don’t think it’s adequate to talk about wiring money,” said Lisa Trollback, vice president of the PTA. “This money helps a cash-strapped Department of Education, but it doesn’t give anyone closure. What happened here is a crime.”
Gregory sees it differently.
“[The fund] is a breath of fresh air — people who want to act honorably and responsibly,” said Gregory, who refused to reveal the name of his clients.
Officials said it could take six to eight weeks to replace the damaged equipment — just in time for the end of the school year.