Community group Friends of Mafera Park organized a park cleanup consisting of residents, high school students and various community leaders on Aug. 27 to raise awareness of the needed upgrades for the Ridgewood park.
Friends of Mafera Park, a group of locals, originally joined forces in 2016 to get funding for much-needed renovations in the park, such as updated equipment and fencing.
Linda Byszynski, the leader of Friends of Mafera Park, said over 80 people came to Mafera Park to help clean up trash and weed the overgrown brush. Church groups, local high school football teams and others all came out to support the cause. This cleanup is just one part of a series of events at Mafera Park to bring attention to necessary renovations.
“A wide coalition of community members and stakeholders came together to push for the renovation and to make noise so that we can be taken seriously,” Byszynski said. “Hopefully, funds will be invested into the park.”
Angelina Aponte, a local Girl Scout, was involved in getting the word out about the cleanup. Aponte also grew up going to Mafera Park and said she didn’t realize how dangerous the conditions were until she got older.
“I’ve gone there most of my childhood,” Aponte said. “As a kid, you never realize how bad the conditions are. You’re not looking for it; you’re just on the playground. But in recent years, I’ve noticed how unsafe it is.”
Most recently, Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi, state Senator Joseph Addabbo and Councilman Robert Holden signed a letter sent to the MTA yesterday requesting they repair a barbed wire fence separating the railroad from the park.
For some time now, residents have brought up safety concerns about the fence, which the MTA owns.
Back in June, Friends of Mafera Park held a walkthrough event with community leaders to show the conditions of the grounds. Holden attended the meeting, promising to help secure funding. Since then, Byszynski said she hasn’t been able to get a commitment from the councilman.
“It doesn’t seem like a priority for him,” Byszynski said. “But, we’ll see when it gets closer to November. When it’s election time, there are a lot of promises being made. But we want a commitment.”
Byszynski said she doesn’t think it was a coincidence that Holden came to the walkthrough meeting at Mafera Park near the primary elections in June.
“I don’t think he’s noticed the Ridgewood community as much as he’s noticed the Middle Village community,” Byszynski said. “We hope if we show him we’re not going to stop, that he will make a commitment to our community.”
Holden did not respond to QNS’ request for comment.
Byszynski mentioned that just a few miles away, Juniper Park in Middle Village received millions of dollars for renovations.
“It’s a slow process, but it is frustrating,” Byszynski said. “I think community members who go to [Mafera] Park are getting frustrated that other parks are getting more attention than parks in the Ridgewood [and] Glendale community.”
Friends of Mafera Park plans on speaking at the Sept. 14 Community Board 5 meeting to keep pushing leaders to take their concerns seriously.