By Bill Parry
A tribute to the Steinway & Sons piano company is part of a $2 million reconstruction of the Paul Raimonda Playground, located on 20th Avenue between 47th and 48th streets in Astoria.
Formerly known as the Steinway Community Playground, the park was renamed for Raimonda, an outspoken community leader and World War II veteran, who died in 1988.
The playground features a new spray shower in the shape of a baby grand piano with four octave keys and a replica of the signature Steinway iron plate inside the piano. A 16-inch seat wall edges the piano with two spray features, and another two will be in the ground.
“After a major tune-up at the Paul Raimonda Playground, kids will be able to splash around this summer in a brand new piano-shaped spray shower that challenges their imaginations and pays homage to the neighborhood’s roots,” Parks Department Queens Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski said during a ribbon-cutting ceremony last week.
Steinway & Sons was founded in New York in 1853 by Henry Steinweg. By 1873 the company had bought up 400 acres of land along the northwestern shore of Astoria and built a spacious factory and a town with a church, library, kindergarten school and public trolley line.
The playground’s last renovation was in 1995, sponsored by City Councilman Peter Vallone. Under the current reconstruction, the underutilized bocce court was removed and the space was used for adult fitness equipment that better suits the needs of park users.
“Adults can enjoy brand new fitness equipment, and take a break in the relocated seating area with new plantings and benches,” Lewandowski said. In addition, the flagpole base was repaired and asphalt was repaved to provide more opportunities for stormwater to drain into permeable areas.
Many of the existing trees have been surrounded by plant beds containing flowering trees, evergreen and deciduous shrubs and perennials. A variety of plants will be selected to provide color and interest from spring to fall.
The project was funded with an $800,000 allocation by City Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) and $920,000 from Mayor Bill de Blasio.
“When you improve a park, you improve a neighborhood,” Constantinides said. “The Raimonda Playground will bring benefits throughout the entire neighborhood. The additional fitness equipment will be accessible to all and will be a better use of space. The brand new spray shower in the shape of a baby grand piano will serve as a centerpiece for the playground and honor the Steinway-Astoria neighborhood’s namesake.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr