By James DeWeese
City Councilman Eric Gioia (D-Sunnyside) and state Assemblywoman Margaret Markey (D-Maspeth) last Thursday announced the massive cash investment aimed at updating the little park at 52nd Street and 39th Drive in the shadow of several heavily populated co-op buildings.The yearlong renovation plan calls for a new surface for the cracked tenth-of-a-mile track that draws neighbors on even the most inclement of days, a state-of-the-art graffiti-proof band shelter to house the park's frequent spring and summer concerts and sit-and-pedal benches for seniors looking to stretch out their legs.Longstanding drainage problems will be addressed and new plantings will help spruce up the up-to-now sparse landscaping, Gioia said.”The heart of the Big Apple is going to get a little bit greener,” Gioia said. “You shouldn't have to be wealthy or live in some leafy suburb to go out and enjoy this space.”The centerpiece of the park's rehabilitation will be the graffiti-proof amphitheater or band shell to be built at the edge of the oval running track. For years, Windmuller has played host to an eclectic mix of summer concerts, as ethnically diverse as the surrounding neighborhood. Now they will have a nicer home, said Barbara Coleman of the Woodside Block Association.”The concerts are multicultural and the neighborhood is multicultural,” Coleman said. “The people who use the park, it's the same thing. It really represents the neighborhood.”Markey said the band shell had been a long time in the making.”When I was first elected six years ago, (neighbors) came to me with a dream of a band shelter,” Markey said. “This is proof dreams come true.”Gioia said the more than $1.6 million in city and state funds for the project already have been allocated. With city Parks Department approval of the plans, work is slated to begin by summer or early fall and to be completed by the spring or summer 2006. Work will progress in phases, meaning the park will remain open to the hundreds of neighbors who use it every day during construction.”This park gets heavy, heavy use all the time,” said Al Volpe, president of the neighboring 442-unit Berkley Towers co-op board. He said he was pleased to see updates to the park that has been a boon to thousands of area residents looking to break a sweat or lounge in the shade. If he had his druthers, though, Volpe said he would also like to see some volleyball courts. Karen Kim is among the thousands of Woodside residents who have helped turn Windmuller Park into a focus of neighborhood activity.As Kim, 27, braved the biting cold last week to take her daily jog along the cracked surface of the park's modest track, she said the park's convenient location holds a special place in neighbors' hearts. But she acknowledged that the park, which boasts a small pool, handball courts and a playground of sorts, could definitely use a little modernization.”It's not too bad, I just don't want dogs here,” Kim said. “They constantly poo-poo.”Reach reporter James DeWeese by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.