By Bill Parry
Generations of Jackson Heights residents have grown up in a neighborhood deprived of proper parkland, but now the city is working to change that.
Elected officials, community leaders and officials from the city Parks Department gathered last Friday for a ceremonial ground-breaking ceremony at Travers Park for an innovative reconstruction project that will span Travers, the 78th Street Pedestrian Plaza, and Rory Staunton Field to create a seamless open space.
“The best of our city’s parks integrate with the adjacent communities without boundaries, flowing from park to street to neighborhood, just as pedestrians do,” Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver said. “The new Travers Park will be a more open and welcoming space for everyone, providing space for play, sports, and relaxation. We thank the community for their patience during this process, and I look forward to reopening this park in 2019.”
Work began in Travers Park in March and the construction will take place in phases in order to maximize the amount of accessible parkland. Once a phase of work is complete, it will become open to the public prior to the next phase beginning.
“Hooray! The long-awaited renovation of Travers Park has finally begun,” City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) said. “We, as a community, fought so hard to make this renovation a reality and now it’s actually happening. Jackson Heights is a thriving and growing community which treasures it parks. This additional green space will ensure that Travers Park meets the needs of our residents for generations to come.”
The project was funded with a total of $7.1 million, including $3.6 million allocated by Dromm, $2.5 million from Mayor Bill de Blasio and an additional $1 million from Queens Borough President Melinda Katz.
“Thanks to the capital investment of public dollars, the community can soon look forward to a new and improved Travers Park,” Katz said, “Significant renovations are underway to Staunton Field performance area, play area, benches and more, all to be further enjoyed by the growing families of Jackson Heights.”
The Travers Park tot lot is currently under design and will be renovated as part of a separate contract. The tot lot project is funded with $2 million from Katz. The centerpiece of the park will be a gently mounted great lawn, surrounded with flowering trees, benches and game tables. The 78th Street Plaza will be raised to eliminate the curb and allow for seamless access from 77th Street to 79th Street. It will feature a performance area in the center, complete with stadium seating. Rory Staunton Field will have a new multi-purpose asphalt field that can accommodate a variety of sports from tennis, to kickball and hop scotch.
“Public parks are a safe haven for our children, families, neighbors and visitors,” state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) said. “Particularly in Jackson Heights, Travers Park is one of the few open public spaces we have for the community to enjoy their free time, play sports, or simply hang out with friends. This reconstruction project, once completed, will transform Travers into one of our most treasured jewels.”
State Assemblyman Michael DenDekker (D-East Elmhurst) called the reconstruction project a victory for parkland over development.
“This particular project includes not only the renovation of Travers Park but also its connection to Staunton Field, another site that was targeted for development,” he said. “The new combined space will allow our community to have more park space for a variety of activities. I can’t wait to bring my grandchildren to the new Travers Park next year.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr