Say It’s Win-Win For Students, Community
The city’s Parks Department and the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) have completed the acquisition of a 24,600-square-foot asphalt play yard owned by the Garden School in Jack- son Heights, which will be used toward the expansion of nearby Thomas J. Travers Park, it was announced.
The purchase price of $6 million was provided through allocations of $4 million from City Council Member Daniel Dromm, $1 million from Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, and $1 million from the NYC Mayor’s Fund. The highly-anticipated acquisition was also made possible by the city’s Law Department and loan entities J. M. Kaplan Fund and the Fund for the City of New York.
“Jackson Heights is one of the most densely-populated and diverse neighborhoods in New York City, and one most in need of parkland for its community.” said Parks Commissioner Veronica M. White. “The additional acreage for Travers Park will provide greatly needed recreational opportunities for Jackson Heights residents.”
The agreement with the Garden School, an independent pre-kindergarten through 12th grade school, furthers the city’s goal of working in innovative ways to expand access to neighborhood open spaces. This is the first time the city has made such an arrangement with a private school.
The public school model includes the highly-acclaimed “Schoolyards to Playgrounds” program, launched in 2007 as part of the Bloomberg Administration’s PlaNYC initiative, which opens up school playgrounds for public use after school hours. At present, 229 “Schoolyards to Playgrounds” sites have been opened to the public through this initiative.
“This transaction optimizes the use of city land for maximum benefit to the community, and DCAS was proud to be a part of this effort,” said Edna Wells Handy, commissioner of the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS).
“We are pleased to announce the sale of the field to the City of New York,” said Arthur Gruen, president of the board of trustees, and Richard Marotta, headmaster, of the Garden School. “Working with the city was terrific. Special thanks to Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson, Council Member Danny Dromm, Parks and DCAS. We are very pleased to join with our community in establishing this permanent open space for our Garden School family and for all of our neighbors.”
“The acquisition of this land dramatically increases the inventory of much-needed open space in Jackson Heights in an area with many multiple dwellings,” said Queens Borough President Helen Marshall. “This need for open space is recognized by the community and local officials. That is why I supported this effort with $1 million in discretionary funding. And now, I look forward to seeing the new recreational opportunities this land will provide for a growing community.”
“Every New Yorker should have access to adequate parks and recreational opportunities,” said Dromm. “The purchase of the Garden School athletic field means that a parkstarved community like Jackson Heights will get to preserve precious open space and have the opportunity to almost double the size of the neighboring Travis Park.”
“With a bridge loan to the Garden School, we saw an opportunity to address all the Kaplan Fund’s signature issues-improving livability in an historic neighborhood serving thousands of immigrant families. As the one small open space serving much of Jackson Heights, Travers Park is the quintessential New York City park-known to host simultaneous cricket, basketball, and tennis games alongside yoga and tai chi, while serving families, teens and all demographics. With the Garden School acquisition, park-starved Jackson Heights will enjoy a substantial increase in open space, and we are pleased to have played a role in making it happen,” said Peter Davidson, Chair of the J. M. Kaplan Fund.
The site will be available for public use outside school hours, including weekend and summer months, with the ball field permitted for use at these times for baseball or softball leagues. As part of the acquisition by the city, the Garden School is being given a five-year lease agreement from the city through the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) for the exclusive use of the property during the school year between the school hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.
The Parks Department will manage the site as a public park at all other times.
The parcel will continue to serve as paved play area for active recreation use and effectively expands Thomas J. Travers Park, which is located to the west, across from 78th Street.
As part of the city’s acquisition of the proposed project site, appropriate measures are being taken to make the site available for public access. The Parks Department plans to install a property line fence to separate the site being acquired by the city from the remaining Garden School property. The play area would be accessible to the public from 78th and 79th Streets.
A final design for the play yard will now be developed. The ULURP and environmental review for the site selection and acquisition of the site were completed last year and the City Planning Commission issued final approval last September.
Michael Wasser, assistant corporation counsel for the city’s Law Department, assisted on the closing.