By Gabriel Rom
Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski, City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) and Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven) joined members of Community Board 9 and the Woodhaven Residents Block Association to officially kick off construction at the Mary Whalen Playground in Woodhaven.
The groundbreaking ceremony was held Tuesday. The new design, which will completely overhaul the layout of the playground, will divide much of it into multiple sections, each geared to a different age group. Toddlers and pre-teens will have new play areas, while a section in the back of the playground will be designated for teenagers.
Other upgrades include new play equipment, repairs of the drainage system, perimeter walls and curbs, a new central water feature and a secondary ramp into the park from Park Lane South that will adhere to the standards set forth by the Americans with Disabilities Act. The playground will also become much greener, with added canopy trees and walking pathways.
“This playground is very special to me because of one of my first jobs as a kid. When I was only 16, I was stationed at the Oak Ridge to clean and maintain the parks in the summer,” Crowley said. “I would come down here often to make sure that it was swept and cleaned and a friendly place for kids to play.”
Mary Whalen Playground, named in 1988 in honor of a local resident who served as the vice president of Community Board 9, was formally dedicated on September 26, 1990.
The $1.3 million project, part of a larger $7.7 million renovation plan for Forest Park, secured its first round of funding in March 2013. The plan is spearheaded by Crowley, who pledged $1.1 million of City Council funding, with the mayor’s office covering the remaining $339,000
Crowley mentioned that there is still $1 million left in her capital budget for future projects in Forest Park.
The Whalen renovations mark the second large park Crowley has helped refurbish. In 2010 she helped fund $1.65 million worth of renovations for the George Seuffert Sr. Bandshell. The bandshell will receive an additional $500,000 as part of Borough President’s Melinda Katz’s fiscal year 2016 discretionary capital funds.
“We’re very lucky today. It’s hard to find the funds for projects like this, and we’re lucky we have Councilwoman Crowley. She fights hard,” Lewandowski said.
“Hopefully, in a year we will be here to cut a ribbon, so see you next summer!” she added.
Construction on the playground officially started at the end of July and is expected to be completed by July 2016.
Reach reporter Gabriel Rom by e-mail at grom@