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Search for Dean Playground bucks - Community group works to advocate for recreational space

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With ground freshly broken on a $1.6 million synthetic turf ball field for a neighborhood park, locals are already looking for additional funding.

A few community residents and members of the Friends of Dean Playground (FDP) gathered last week at the Iglesia Evangelica Latina Church, 506 Bergen Street, to strengthen their governing structure and talk about the playground’s needs.

The Dean Street Playground is located in Prospect Heights and is bounded by Bergen and Dean Streets, and Sixth and Carlton Avenues.

“We recently incorporated and are moving forward to becoming a non-profit organization, but the goal is to be talking about bylaws and how the group is being configured,” said FDP Co-Chair Peter Krashes.

Krashes said the idea is to create an organization made up of community members and users of the playground.

For instance, Conrad McCrae Youth League, which runs a highly successful basketball tournament every summer, would be an ideal member organization, he said.

Krashes said the goal of the organization is basically two-fold – to advocate on what additional renovations are needed and to raise money to get the renovations completed.

Krashes said the $1.6 million will only pay for the synthetic turf over the underutilized asphalt area.

The organization will set priorities for playground improvements and then convey them to Community Board 8, who will in turn speak to the Parks Department about making the improvements, he said.

Krashes said the priorities will follow what the community seems to want, and right now that seems like it would be the resurfacing of the basketball courts, but it’s the Parks Department that makes all the final decisions.

Other immediate priorities include renovations to the children’s playground, the seating area, the handball court and possibly the addition of a comfort station, said Krashes.

“The notion is for full playground improvements. We’re moving everything along, and now we have to roll up our sleeves and do some fundraising,” said Krashes.

While Krashes only gave a few general ideas about from whom and where to raise funds, it probably will not get any more money from developer Shaya Boymelgreen, whose Shaya B. Pacific, LLC company provided $1.4 million for the synthetic turf improvement.

Boymelgreen is the developer of the NewsWalk Condominium building at 535 Dean Street across the street from the park.

The building, which actually faces Pacific Street, was once owned by the New York Daily News. When Boymelgreen purchased the property in the late the 90’s he needed to get a zoning change from commercial to residential.

As part of the variance agreement, the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals required Boymelgreen to open up the part of his property facing the park from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. as green space for the community.

Instead, Boymelgreen installed a locked gate and a buzzer for residents in the building to gain entrance.

Eventually an agreement was reached for NewsWalk building residents to keep their gated garden entrance area in return for Boymelgreen funding a major portion of the synthetic turf.

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