BY JACKIE STRAWBRIDGE
Rainbow Park in Sunnyside, otherwise known as Thomas P. Noonan playground, is getting an upgrade.
Construction began early this month on the $2 million renovation project, which was orchestrated by Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), and is due to be completed in about a year.
Van Bramer held a groundbreaking ceremony on May 9 alongside several members of the community, including Joe Conley, chair of Community Board 2, students, teachers and administrators from PS 199, and several local Vietnam veterans.
The star of the show was 13-year-old Sunnyside resident Alysia Quan. Quan suggested cleaning this playground when Van Bramer visited her class for a Career Day at PS 199 in 2011. The renovation project was conceived during the playground cleaning, and Quan subsequently put forth some design ideas to Van Bramer’s office that have been incorporated into the project.
Quan now attends IS 125, where she is the vice president of the school’s student government. She is also a singer and led the group in the National Anthem.
“I’m just grateful that she’s only 13, so she can’t run against me for another five years,” Van Bramer joked.
Aspects of the renovation project include accessible play equipment, separate play areas for toddlers and older children, bike racks, added swing sets and a new, revamped “Rainbow” spray shower. The new playground will also have increased green space, improved drainage and lighting and a reconstructed main entrance.
The renovation design process involved a public comment period. Kids submitted drawings of their ideas for the playground’s design and parents made suggestions, including adding fencing around the perimeter of the playground as a barricade against the surrounding traffic.
Students also suggested that the playground include a memorial to its namesake, Marine Lance Corporal Thomas P. Noonan. The memorial will be a granite circle at the base of the site’s flagpole, engraved with biographical information about Noonan.
“[The renovations will] introduce new green spaces, make the park safer for young children and forever commemorate the sacrifices our local veterans made for this great nation,” Van Bramer said.
Noonan joined the Marines in December of 1967 and fought as a rifleman and mortarman in Vietnam. In February of 1969, he was killed in action during the rescue of wounded members of his company. Noonan was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
Vietnam veteran Mike Smith was present at the ceremony. Smith has lived in Sunnyside for 30 years and is Commander of VFW Post 2813, which recently moved its post to a new Sunnyside location, just down the street from Noonan playground. Smith lauded the memorial project as a great honor both for Noonan and for Queens veterans.
“This is a long time coming,” Smith said.
“This inclusive project is a wonderful example of what we can accomplish when we work together as a community,” Van Bramer said. “With the feedback we have received from the community, we will rebuild a better playground that everyone can enjoy.”
Reach Jackie Strawbridge at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JNStrawbridge.