Local group rallies at Ridgewood’s Mafera Park, calls on elected officials to secure funds for renovations

Friends of Mafera Park asked Councilman Robert Holden to replace playground equipment. (Photo by Julia Moro)
Julia Moro

A group of about 15 community members gathered Wednesday, June 16, to ask their local officials to allocate funds for renovations to Mafera Park in Ridgewood.

Friends of Mafera Park, consisting of a group of area residents, first formed in 2016 to call attention to the changes needed to their local park. During the June 16 rally, residents walked the grounds of Mafera Park — located at 65th Place and Shaler Avenue — showing Councilman Robert Holden and Community Board 5 District Manager Gary Giordano the neglected areas.

Holden, who is seeking re-election in the June 22 primary, said he plans on helping the residents.

“I love ideas on creating and reconstructing parks. This is the process I use as a parks advocate and this is a good way to get information to bring to my council office,” Holden said.

According to the Friends of Mafera Park group, one project the community would like money for is a dog park. A section of the park used to be a garden run by the Parks Department, but had since been neglected. The community took over and turned it into an unofficial dog park. However, three-inch metal barriers run through the grounds of the space, making it unsafe for dogs to run around. 

Investing money in a dog park would cost close to $1 million, according to Holden. 

The group is also asking for updated playground equipment, along with necessary repairs, and is hoping to add a running track, gym equipment and trees.

Linda Byszynski, the leader of Friends of Mafera Park, said she has been bringing her kids to the park for years. Unlike other parents, she said she refuses to go to nicer parks in the area, such as Juniper Park in Middle Village. 

“I’m a homeowner. I pay taxes here,” Byszynski said. “The upkeep is not the same as Juniper Park and it’s really not fair.”

The City Council allocated more than $4.6 million to Juniper Park to reconstruct the track and field and add a fitness area.

Juan Ardila, a District 30 candidate running against Holden, said that since there isn’t much green space in the area, it’s important to maintain the parks. 

“There’s a park here that’s not getting the support that it needs,” Ardila said. “Juniper is not the only park in the district. We need to make sure all of our parks are getting the renovations they need.”

Marta Martinez, another community member, had been bringing her kids to Mafera Park for years before choosing to stop and take them to safer parks.  

“There’s no political action,” Martinez said. “[Former Councilwoman Elizabeth] Crowley, at the time, came, saw, promised and left. We’re trying again. I want this park to be totally renovated.”

Martinez’s son chimed in to say he remembers getting 15 splinters on the playground equipment when he was younger. 

Holden said the most important part in making a change is having a resident group, like Friends of Mafera, start the process. 

After the June 16 meeting, Byszynski said Giordano agreed to form a community stakeholder meeting with Community Board 5 and the Parks Department to assess the needs of the park. From there, costs and priorities will be considered before moving forward with the City Council office.