The new playground, located at 6006 Beach Front Road in Arverne, comes after a $5 million investment from the Queens Borough President’s Office and City Council, as well as a decade of advocacy from local Florence Ferguson. Ferguson, a resident of the block since 1995 and the leading voice behind the “Friends of the Beach 59th Street Playground” group, previously lobbied the area’s local representatives and called for the once-dilapidated space to receive a makeover for children of all ages and abilities to enjoy.
“I’m usually not at a loss for words, but my heart is so full this morning to see the fruition of years of advocacy,” Ferguson said. “The children are the ones that are really going to benefit from this. We’re changing space, and we’re holding space for all children of all abilities to come into this playground and feel welcomed.”
Among the playground’s new features are interactive panels on the fencing of the swing set, one of which is in braille for visually impaired children, as well as the playground’s new ADA-accessible ramp on Beach 60th Street, allowing easy access for wheelchairs and strollers. Other noteworthy additions include redesigned playground equipment, a spray shower area to cool down, picnic tables, benches and shade structures just in time for the summer heat.
“It’s great to see this playground opened and reimagined just as we’re kicking off the summer,” said NYC Parks Queens Borough Commissioner Jackie Langsam. “I know [the] Beach 59th St. playground will be a place for family fun for many years to come.”
The redesigned playground is one of many NYC Parks projects currently underway on the peninsula with five other projects set to finish this summer up and down the boardwalk, totaling more than $33 million. NYC Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue hopes these projects open opportunities for the community to build connections and offer space for the community’s youngest residents to learn and grow.
“As we work to make Rockaway the premier destination for fun in the sun, as it already is, we will continue to focus our designs and planning on the needs of the residents who use these resources the most,” Donoghue said. “Parks and playgrounds like this one are vital for New Yorkers both for their physical and mental health benefits.”
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards echoed Donoghue’s sentiment, adding his personal excitement for the new playground as both a former resident and city councilman of the area, as well as someone who frequented the playground as a child.
“The Rockaways are certainly on a big come-up,” Richards said. “We’re going to continue to make sure that across this peninsula, from Breezy Point to Far Rockaway, that investment continues to happen.”
NYC Council Majority Whip Selvena N. Brooks-Powers also expressed her personal excitement, sharing that her daughter, nephew and other local children enjoyed the playground’s new features when it first opened for a test run earlier this year. Like Richards, she hopes this playground is the start of great things for the peninsula’s park projects and is representative of NYC Parks’ ongoing investment in the community.
“Combined with the borough president, we could go up against any borough and show that the Parks Department gives the money,” Brooks-Powers said. “This park is just another example of how we plan to invest in the quality of life and health of our community.”
Community Board 14 District Manager Jon Gaska recalled attending the playground’s first ribbon-cutting ceremony when it first opened in the community about 30 years ago.
“This is much nicer than the last one,” Gaska said. “I was here for the bad old days and now the good old days are here.”
While acknowledging the larger significance of the project, each speaker at the ribbon-cutting ceremony made it a point to credit Ferguson for starting the process a decade ago. Gaska described Ferguson and the “Friends of the Beach 59th Street Playground” group as “tenacious” in their efforts to see the playground’s redesign happen.
“Every board meeting you would advocate for it and squeaky wheel gets the grease,” Gaska said. “And you guys were squeaky as hell, one of the squeakiest groups that I’ve dealt with over the last three decades.”
“This is what it is all about when communities come together, working with elected officials, getting involved,” Richards added. “This is the product that you get.”
Richards also remarked on the playground’s larger significance as one investment that works to address park equity and inequity in communities of color throughout the borough.
“Your socioeconomic status should not be a determinant on whether you have access to high-quality parks,” Richards said. “Everybody deserves the same things, especially as taxpayers in this city and borough.”