By Brendan Browne
Ozone Park’s Centreville Park reopened Monday after a $1.4 million reconstruction program refurbished the playground, basketball and handball courts, and added grass to the baseball field.
Four-year-olds and 5-year-olds from nearby New Town Playschool joined city Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, City Councilman Joe Addabbo (D-Howard-Beach), and the district manager of Community Board 10 in a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the “blue ribbon” playground.
“I remember when this park was nasty. It was dirty. No one would come,” said Addabbo, who chairs the City Council’s Parks Committee and was born near Centreville Park. But times have changed.
“We make sure our parks are safe and clean so people will come,” he said. “If you see a nice park, you’ll see nice people around it.”
The playground has been dubbed the “playground of the horse” because the neighborhood was home to the 19th century Centreville Racetrack, which was sliced up into building lots in 1899. It also happens to be reopening during the Chinese Year of the Horse, which adds significance to the nickname. The park’s fences are painted with galloping horse silhouettes to highlight the theme.
In addition, it is a few blocks from Aqueduct Racetrack.
“Every 10 or 15 years after the parks see a lot of use, they end up needing repairs,” said Eric Adolfsen, a spokesman for the Parks Department. He said Centreville Playground was due for a renovation.
Restoration of the park was originally suggested by former City Council Member Al Stabile (R-Ozone Park) and has come in two phases.
The first, which was completed a year ago and cost $900,000, added new playground equipment and benches and installed a sprinkler system on the baseball diamond to help the grass grow. The field was named after Julius P. Pignataro, who grew up in the area and was killed fighting in the Vietnam War as a 19-year-old.
The $500,000 second phase of reconstruction was completed in April, leaving the park with resurfaced basketball and handball courts, chessboards, benches, and additional playground equipment. The Parks Department also planted a dogwood tree and shrubbery to add to the line of trees surrounding the park.
“Our motto is children first. Everything else comes second,” said Benepe.
Reach reporter Brendan Browne by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.