BY JON CRONIN
Local officials and civic leaders celebrated the ribbon cutting of the $1.4 million reconstruction of Mary Whalen Playground in the Woodhaven section of Forest Park last Friday.
Mitchell Silver, commissioner of the NYC Park Department, noted at the opening of the ceremony, while listening to the students of PS 99’s class 127 play on the new equipment, “When you hear the sound of the children, that’s why we do what we do,” he said
He added, “These social spaces are outdoor living rooms where kids can get healthy and make friends.”
Silver said a priority of the rehabilitation of the playground was replacing the play structures with newer safer and more modern engaging equipment for the children.
They also added another ADA accessible entrance, planted more trees to break up the asphalt and provide shade for those hot summer days.
Elizabeth Crowley (D-Glendale), who provided $1.1 million for the project as well as $339,000 from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office, said “From the moment I became a council member, this community has been advocating for the restoration of Mary Whalen playground.”
Of the park’s namesake, Crowley said, “We owed it to Mary Whalen and her memory for a woman that was so dedicated to Woodhaven.”
Whalen, who passed away in 1987, was on the Woodhaven Residents Block Association, a member of Community Board 9 and founded the Woodhaven Business Improvement District.
“Forest Park is very special,” said Crowley, “this is where I brought my kids when they were younger.”
She also thanked J. Richard Smith, Parks Committee chair of Community Board 9, Raj Rampershad, chair of CB 9 and Lisa Gomes, district manager for CB 9 for advocating for the restoration.
Mary Ann Keller and Virginia Peebles, Whalen’s daughters, were also in attendance. Keller went before the crowd and thanked Crowley and the NYC Parks Department “for a wonderful place for the kids to come and play.”
Keller said their family moved there in the early 1960s when she was about 10 years old. “Immediately my parents fell in love with Woodhaven. My mother worked so hard and so long to build Woodhaven into what it is today,” she said.
She said they used to use the phrase, “’Wonderful Woodhaven, a haven in the city.’ And that’s exactly what Woodhaven is.”
Keller noted that when she was a child she played there, then her children and later her grandchildren.
Mary Whalen Playground, off of Park Lane South, in Forest Park previously went decades without any significant upgrades. The playground’s surface, play equipment outdated, and fencing were all in poor condition. After 10 months of construction the playground is completely renovated with a place for preschoolers and pre-teens, a new drainage system and two and half times as much greenery.
Reach Reporter Jon Cronin at (718) 357-7400 x125, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JonathanSCronin