Groundbreaking ceremony launches renovations at Mary Whalen Playground in Forest Park

THE COURIER/Photo by Angela Matua

The makeover is finally underway at Forest Park’s Mary Whalen Playground.

Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski, City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley and Assemblyman Mike Miller joined members of Community Board 9 and Woodhaven residents on Tuesday for a ceremonial groundbreaking on nearly $1.5 million in renovations to the park.

Mary Whalen Playground, which was named after the first vice chairperson of Community Board 9 more than 25 years ago, has not seen major renovations since 1991. Before this project, the playground’s safety surface was deteriorated, the play equipment was outdated and the walls surrounding the park were in bad condition.

The new design will see the entire playground reconstructed to include swing sets for toddlers ages 2 to 5 and young children ages 6 to 12, new play equipment for toddlers, a multipurpose play area and sprinklers. There will also be a 250 percent increase in greenery and repairs to the drainage system.

“Many people don’t know this about me, but this playground is very special to me because one of my first jobs as a kid, 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.”

The playground is situated at the base of several small hills known as “knob and kettle terrain,” created by a glacier tens of thousands of years ago. This terrain, according to Lewandowski, makes it difficult for those with disabilities to maneuver the park.

To improve accessibility, an American with Disabilities Act (ADA) ramp will also be built near Park Lane South on the west side of the playground.

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office also contributed $339,000 for the reconstruction, which is slated to finish in the summer of 2016.

There is still close to $1 million left in the capital budget for renovations to Forest Park. Crowley also worked with former Queens Borough President Helen Marshall in 2010 to fund $1.65 million worth of renovations for the George Seuffert Sr. Bandshell.

“[Mary Whalen] has a long history in this community,” Board 9 District Manager Lisa Gomes said. “She came to this park with her own children and her grandchildren and led many, many cleanups and I think long before the time that was done so I’m grateful to be here. Thank you for inviting me and on behalf of Community Board 9, thank you to everybody who is responsible for making this happen.”

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