By Rich Bockmann
Come this summer, the residents of South Jamaica’s Baisley Park Houses will have something else to celebrate at their annual fete: a new basketball court and playground redesigned from the ground up.
Standing on the upturned soil where the old courts once stood, community members ceremonially broke ground on the $400,000 redevelopment of the New York City Housing Authority’s recreation facilities.
“Since the 1970s, there hasn’t been any real attention or real work done to revamp the park area,” said Jahi Rose, director of constituent affairs for City Councilman Ruben Wills’ (D-Jamaica) office. “It should be completed by late July of this year to ensure it will be in perfect use for Baisley Day.”
Wills had allocated the capital funding for the project but could not attend the groundbreaking due to a scheduling conflict. Rose said it was a collaborative effort among the councilman’s office, NYCHA and residents that got the project off the ground.
“All the programming that’s been done here, all the attention that’s been paid here has led us to this point, where we can then say that the ground is broken and we are going to be a couple of months away from seeing a brand new park, a brand new playground and a brand new place for our young people, for our adolescents and for our adults and seniors to recreate and to relax,” he said.
A.U. Hogan, president of the Baisley Houses Tenants’ Association, said residents have been celebrating their community Aug. 2 every summer for the past 30 years. The only thing that seemed to be a longer-standing tradition was the poorly maintained recreation areas.
“Actually, the ground has not been touched since 1961, so it’s been a very long time that these young kids and adults have been playing on this asphalt that’s been damaging their knees, their backs, whatever,” he said. “In order to have a basketball game and playground and sprinklers where the seniors will be out there — got to mention them, they sit down also in the park — it has to be a safe area and we work very hard for Baisley Park to become a safe area.”
The public housing development sits in the heart of the 113th Precinct, a command that traditionally struggles with violent crime, particularly during the summer months.
NYCHA Deputy Director Peter Edwards said the new facilities will give the youth a safe place to enjoy themselves outdoors.
“The upgrade will include many amenities, giving young people a much-needed safe recreational space,” he said. “The renovation will increase and sow seeds for a stronger, healthier Baisley Park community.”
Last spring Wills and community members broke ground on a $350,000 renovation of the basketball courts at the South Jamaica Houses.
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.