Sunset Playground reopens after renovation, expansion

Grand opening: Councilman Carlos Menchaca and Borough Parks Commissioner Martin Maher lead the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
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Residents and local officials gathered at Sunset Playground to cut the ribbon to open the new-and-improved playground to the neighborhood’s youngsters on Aug. 17.

The spiffed-up space fills a vital community need for a larger, safer, and more accessible place for children and families to gather, said Community Board 7 district manager Jeremy Laufer.

“Our community has precious few parks, and because of that, we need to make sure the parks that we do have are modern, safe, and available to everybody in the community,” he said. “Particularly in this case, since the playground was enlarged, it allows more kids to use the facility at the same time.”

Local officials — including Councilman Carlos Menchaca (D–Sunset Park), who helped fund the $3.22-million renovation along with Mayor DeBlasio — gathered with community activists and residents to cut the ribbon to open the park after nearly 17 months of renovations.

After the grown-ups had their fun, kids climbed, swung, and tumbled all over the new equipment, which includes slides, swings, rope climbers, a sandbox area, and a spray shower. Platforms and ramps between the equipment improved accessibility for everyone.

Sebastian Bjorken, a Sunset Park resident, enjoyed zooming down the new slide on opening day at the updated playground. His mother said that before the renovations, the dilapidated playground wasn’t fit for the community’s kids.

“It was filthy, it was old, it was broken down,” said Johanna Bjorken. “There wasn’t really much to engage younger kids, and they were constantly getting trampled by bigger kids.”

Laufer said the old playground not only needed the equipment upgrades and safety improvements, but also an expansion to accommodate the growing local population.

“It was quite frankly too small for the needs of this community,” he said.

For parents, newly-installed drinking fountains, fencing, and security lighting will make days at the playground less stressful, while updated landscaping — including shade trees — will make sweltering days more bearable. They can also take advantage of the public wifi installed throughout park last month.

Bjorken said she is most happy that the updated playground will provide entertainment for not just her son, but for kids of all ages. “I think it’s great, it’s got so much for kids to do,” she said. “There’s so much variety and diversity in the way that kids could play there.”

The re-opening of the long closed space was a celebratory moment for the community, said Borough President Adams said in a statement.

Laufer said the renovated playground is the first completed of many improvement project set the neighborhood’s eponymous park over the next two years, including updates to a separate children’s spray fountain on the opposite side of the park. The recreation center, adult fitness area, benches, and fencing will also see improvements, and the paths will be repaved, he said.

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.
Posted 12:00 am, August 21, 2017
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