Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Walter Ward Playground to Get $1.7M Makeover by Stephen Geffon - Queens Chronicle

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Howard Beach children and parents are eagerly anticipating the long-time coming makeover of one heavily used, dilapidated and neglected playground, expected to begin next summer.

A $1.7 million renovation for the aging Walter Ward Playground in Howard Beach, shown above, is scheduled to begin next summer and be completed the following year. (photo courtesy of Stephen Geffon)

At almost 42 years old, the Walter Ward Playground, located at 89th Street and 160th Avenue, is in serious need of the $1.7 million facelift it will soon get.

City Councilman Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) secured funding for the revamp after P.S. 207 Parent Coordinator Nina DeBlasio brought to his attention parents’ complaints and concerns about the condition of the aging facility, which was known as P.S. 207 Playground when it first opened in February 1967.

With the funding in place, the city Department of Parks and Recreation will begin replacing the old park and making it accessible to all users. Larger play equipment and adult exercise equipment will be installed, and children of all ages — from toddlers to teenagers — will have a variety of activities for recreation.

The new playground will have tot swings, a play unit for children 2 to 5 years old, two separate units for children 5 to 12 years old and a spray shower feature. As part of the project, the parks department will renovate the handball courts and add new fencing, benches, game tables, lighting, resilient safety surface, drinking fountains and add extensive plantings.

Last week Parks Department representatives Joanne Amagrande-Savarese and Steve Whitesell presented to members of Community Board 10 detailed plans of the reconstruction, which they said will likely take about one year to complete.

Residents and parents began meeting with Whitesell, the park project designer, in late 2006. In September 2008, he showed them a preliminary design sketch for the renovation.

According to DeBlasio, parents applauded the department for its work on the project. “They’re very excited they are getting a new park,” she said. Kelly Sinisgalli, a P.S. 207 PTA Board member, said she is extremely happy with the playground project.

After addressing concern about the placement of a large piece of play equipment near the kindergarten entrance, the final park design was submitted and approved by the parents. It was then unanimously approved by C. B. 10.

Addabbo was approving as well, particularly because a renovation such as this was necessary for a playground with a variety of safety issues.

As it sits now, the park contains three full basketball courts, two handball courts, play equipment and a shaded sitting area. In 1996, then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani funded a $96,000 renovation of the playground, which provided new play equipment and safety resurfacing.

Construction that is expected to begin next summer will not disrupt the basketball courts where the Rockwood Park Summer Basketball League is scheduled to play its 20th season, according to DeBlasio.