Atlantic City residents see hope in opening of troubled park

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It was an unusual sound coming from the park situated between two of Atlantic City’s most troubled areas. But it was unmistakable.
Children laughing and shouting  filled the air as a cleaned up Brown’s Park officially opened Monday.
“I love this park,” 6-year-old Kasir Harris shouted as he jumped up and down before heading up to play.
Kasir had been waiting for this, asking each time they passed the fenced-in park, his grandmother Denise Pettus said.
“Hopefully, it stays a safe place for our kids to play,” said the 58-year-old woman who grew up across the street in Stanley Holmes.
City Council President Marty Small challenged everyone to make sure that happens.
“This isn’t about the Atlantic City police stepping up. This isn’t about elected officials stepping up,” he said. “I’m issuing a challenge to the community. … If everyone can step up to keep this park in the condition that it is today, it will be great for many, many years to come.”
Memorial Day was a fitting time to reopen the park  named for Tech Sgt. Harold Brown, the first African-American from Atlantic City to die in World War II.
Until now, the area hasn’t been a lot to be proud of at the park, which became home to the city’s homeless and a common place for drinking and drug use.
“We can all bow our heads in shame over the last 30 years at the condition of this park,” Mayor Don Guardian said.
“This is what our children need,” said Key Muhammad said as she watched children play Monday afternoon.
She said parents need to be there as well to make sure the park stays a clean and safe place for the kids.
“I’m going to be one of those parents who come out here,” Anthony Jones said.
“Who’s next? Who’s next? Who’s next?” he asked after pushing a group of children on a big swing, and then making sure others got a turn.
Guardian credited former Planning Director Elizabeth Terenik with making sure the money was there to fix the park. Although she recently left the position, she did attend Monday’s festivities.
“It’s beautiful,” she said.
There will be police patrols of the park, along with four cameras that will be part of the citywide police surveillance.
“I don’t think it will become what it was in the past,” said Councilman Frank Gilliam, who stood watching children play.
“This is what the city needs, a place for our children,” Muhammad said. “I commend them.”

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