From one family’s pain came something good for an entire community.
On Friday, October 22, the ribbon was cut on the Walter Ward Playground, bringing with it what some residents feel will be a renewed sense of unity for the area.
“We haven’t had anything like this in the community,” said Nina DeBlasio, parent coordinator for P.S./M.S. 207, which adjoins the playground. “Having a park like that brings a sense of community.”
The community park, owned and operated by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, underwent a major renovation – all new equipment, new flooring, and sprinklers – thanks to $1.7 million in funding secured by then-Councilmember Joseph Addabbo.
“Residents and parents had been calling, saying their children were getting injured,” said Addabbo. “It was a pleasure getting the money and producing a beautiful and safe park.”
But the impetus for the revamp came from the Annecco family.
Four years ago, two-year-old Jolie Skye Annecco drowned in her family’s backyard pool. Parents Penny and Joseph and Jolie’s siblings Ryann, Nicolette and Payton were devastated. Ryann and Nicolette were students at P.S. 207 and Penny was a learning leader at the school.
“She [Jolie] was always in the park, on the swings,” said DeBlasio. “Her mom wanted to do something in her memory – that’s what really spearheaded [the project] in a sense.”
So in June of 2007, the monies were secured; October of the following year, a committee, the community, Community Board, local politicians and the Parks Department began meeting on the project.
“We really put together a new playground, a community-designed park,” DeBlasio told The Courier.
She said that the multiple agencies involved – from the Parks Department and point-person Steve Whitesell to the construction crews – were extremely cooperative.
“The Parks Department worked with the students and parents on what kind of park they wanted,” said Addabbo.
It took a little less than a year to complete the project, said DeBlasio, and on Friday, the ribbon was cut, with now State Senator Addabbo and City Councilmember Eric Ulrich, along with the Annecco family in attendance.
And in the park now stands a plaque – purchased by the Parent’s Association of P.S./M.S. 207 – for Jolie that reads, “God’s little angel, forever in our hearts.”
“We wanted to do something nice and have a plaque in her memory,” said DeBlasio, who feels a sense of pride for the park and the community where she has lived all her life.
“It really put a lump in my throat when I drove by and saw kids playing and families enjoying the park,” she said. “That’s what parks are all about.”