Harpe Place gets $125,000 play park

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Naomi Campbell and Jada Joseph enjoy the newly installed swing, at the refurbished Harpe Place play park hosted by Housing Development Corporation in partnership with First Citizens Bank at the Harpe Place Housing Development on Observatory Street in East Port of Spain on Wednesday. Photo by Roger Jacob

More than two months after five people were murdered at Harpe Place on Observatory Street in Port of Spain, the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) play park in the area received a $125,000 facelift.

The play park was refurbished through a partnership between HDC and First Citizens Bank (FCB) and opened on May 29.

On March 16, the five, including a police officer, were killed and three injured in a gang-related shooting at the Harpe Place HDC apartment complex.

At the park’s opening, Minister of Housing and Urban Development Camille Robinson-Regis thanked FCB for its support and said this was the first in a series of similar projects across the country.

“We thought it was important for us to start at Harpe Place, given the tragic incident that took place here, and given the sadness that still prevails in the area. We felt it would be a good opportunity to bring some light back into the area.

“We know that the residents of Harpe Place have been doing their part, but we also felt that because this is an HDC community, we of the HDC, in partnership with FCB, needed to do what we felt could bring an aspect of joy to the children of the area.

“We feel that the children must always feel that sense of hope and that sense of happiness, and we know that this play area will bring that for them.”

Robinson-Regis said this play park was just one aspect of the development HDC plans to carry out in the area. She said she expects within the next two months, the HDC will erect barriers and put appropriate security measures in place.

“We are in the process of making sure we get the right security features for Harpe Place and for other HDC complexes that we service.

“We found that while we were awaiting those security aspects, it didn’t mean that we do nothing else. It is important for the children to feel comfortable, because they would have been traumatised by what happened. We were quite certain in our minds that this was important for the residents of this area, the children in particular.

“It is not that we are not going to do the security barriers that we promised. It is a bit unfortunate that we couldn’t get it done before now, but we had to go through a tender process. It is a whole process to get it done…we have a particular process that we have to go through and we have to make sure to get the right security, because there is no point that we just put in the barriers and then it makes no sense.”

MP for the area Stuart Young said the play park was important infrastructure for East Port of Spain and he was happy that his area got first preference for the initiative.

“We all know the tragic circumstances that fell on the Harpe a few months ago and the councillor, the mayor, myself, minister Robinson-Regis and HDC have continued to remain in tune with the residents of Harpe and we are advocating for more to be done here. So I am happy to hear my colleague, as she has been telling me more will be done here.”

Residents were pleased with the upgrade to the park, but were anxious for safety infrastructure to be installed.

Mother of three Kimon Cyrus said, “The park is a plus for the children. It would keep the children inside, because of the high-risk community we are living in.

“Seeing that the officials are trying to keep up the park after we experienced such a tragic incident, it shows that they still care about the children.

“In terms of the environment, it is still not safe, but word on the ground is that they are trying to put gateways for us to make us more secure. I hope that with all that was said, they do what they say they will do, because people are still afraid.”

A young male resident shared a similar view.

“We are thankful for the park, because it is for the children.”

But he asked, “Why is that the first thing they do after five people dead? That is the first thing they do instead of putting down gates for us.

“As soon as they leave, we have to go back into security mode.”

Robinson-Regis spoke to reporters after the event on the HDC’s debt collection drive. She said the process was going well and tenants were making the effort to pay outstanding rent.

“We have had several people who have come in and paid up their arrears. Just yesterday one person came because they have not paid in 11 years. They owed the HDC over $100,000. We have told that person if they do not pay something and put an arrangement in place, we would have to evict them.

“But in most instances, given the drive, people have been coming in making their arrangements, and thus far they have been sticking with the arrangements that they have made. It is something that is ongoing.”