By Bob Harris
Cunningham Park is heavily used by Queens residents and people from other counties. To the west of the park is the West Cunningham Park Civic Association, which watches over the park. A group with a wider base is the Friends of Cunningham Park, headed by community activist Marc Haken. The group meets almost monthly in the office of Community Board 8, which is on Hillside Avenue.
Both groups keep in contact with the Department of Parks so it is constantly aware of the need to fund renovations in Cunningham Park. Attending steering committee meetings of the Friends of Cunningham Park are people such as Park Manager Jim Cafaro, Tom Panzone of the Partnership for Parks, CB 8 Manager Diane Cohen, historian Bob Miller, West Cunningham Park Civic Association President Bob Harris and Secretary Martin Olesh.
The Friends of Cunningham Park have decided to write to Councilmen David Weprin (D-Hollis) and Jim Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) to ask for money for the next fiscal year. They learned that state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) funded a wooden railing for the park, and U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Kew Gardens) funded an underground sprinkler system.
This had been an idea this columnist has advocated for years. It is sad to see a brown lawn during the summer.
It was commented that the dog run in the western end of the park near 193rd Street and Aberdeen Road has been rehabilitated. This dog run has been there for several years to the delight of dog owners and with no complaints from nearby residents. Twenty benches have been installed in Cunningham Park, and plaques are being obtained to place on the benches.
The Butterfly Garden, near 193rd Street and Aberdeen Road, is fenced and bloomed nicely last summer. A plaque has been placed in it saying that the garden was donated by the Friends of Cunningham Park. They are also working on trail restoration in parts of the park.
The renovation of the main comfort station to the west of the tennis courts is still in the planning stage. Former Councilman Sheldon Leffler originally funded this renovation, and Weprin added more money. The comfort station was old and not handicapped-accessible. The new building will correct these defects and add more stalls for women. The progress has been slow but steady.
Other interesting park issues are that the upper parking lot comfort station has been cleared out and contractors should start fixing it soon, and those brick buildings in the upper parking lot near 193rd Street have been cleared out for possible use as a half-district office and half-nature station.
In addition, Benita Caceres and her crew were able to plant many flowers for the daffodil-planting project, a new electric cart is being used in the park and there was discussion of installing signs and information kiosks with brochures at the main entrance and in the parking lots.
In December there was a mulchfest in the park on two Saturdays where grinders operated by park employees with the help of volunteers mulched about 1,600 old Christmas trees. This was done in several parks in the city at the same time.
Panzone of the Partnership for Parks reported on the Greek Week clean-up in Cunningham Park, which will be April 4. Each year fraternities and sororities from St. John’s University spend a day cleaning up part of the park and then play games and socialize. It is a nice day out for them and the park gets some needed care.
The parks school building in the upper parking lot operates as a senior citizens’ center during the day and an after-school center in the afternoon. It accommodates 24 children and has a waiting list. During the summer it operates as a summer play school. For information, contact Ms. Williams at 718-740-1999.
The Friends of Cunningham Park is open to members and volunteers. Dues are $15 a person. It can be reached at P.O. Box 660134, Utopia Station, Flushing, NY 11366. For more information, call Diane Cohen at CB 8 at 718-264-7895.
Good and bad news of the week
The city wants to hold back failing third-graders. About 15,000 children would be involved. About 10 years ago, former Chancellor Frank Macchiarola held back fourth- and eighth-graders who were failing. Some people feel that just tutoring the students is more efficient than holding them back.
Some 30 percent to 40 percent of our students drop out of school in senior high school because they cannot read or do math and therefore cannot pass high school classes. And if students are left back in third grade then they cannot take the fourth-grade test and scores will be higher on these standardized exams.
My suggestions for helping failing students is to make parents accountable and involved, and give the children individual or very small group tutoring as well as several inexpensive books every year so they can read at home and get to know books.
In addition, make sure teachers have time to do reading and math in the morning every day and make sure that those who are supposed to provide services for students actually give the services and are not assigned to do something else or are filling out forms instead.