Photo by Rebecca Henely
By Rebecca Henely

Leaders of the 82nd Street Partnership, a small business improvement organization, were pleased the borough president and mayor’s offices set aside $200,000 to improve the Dunningham Triangle, a vital piece of open space in the dense neighborhood.

Borough President Helen Marshall gave the triangle, on 82nd Street between Ithaca Street and Baxter Avenue in Elmhurst, $150,000 while Mayor Michael Bloomberg pitched in another $50,000. With input from the community, the members of the Partnership want to make the triangle a destination as part of the overall revitalization of the commercial strip.

“These funds will provide for the renovation of this crucial triangle and create a vibrant anchor to enhance local businesses and enliven the shopping district,” Marshall said in a statement.

The triangle is one-tenth of an acre, according to the city Parks Department’s website.

Seth Taylor, director of the partnership, said the business group had applied for the grants in February and that it was “delighted” to receive them.

“A space like that, it will be an important amenity for the shoppers who come to 82nd Street,” Taylor said.

City Small Business Services Commissioner Robert Walsh described the current state of the park as “something out of a Charlie Brown episode” — i.e., unplanted and lonely. He said building upon it will make a big difference.

“It’s not a big piece of land, but it’s a critical piece of land,” Walsh said.

Both he and Taylor said they want to hold events in the triangle as well to drive shoppers to the space.

The city Parks Department will take the lead in creating the design of the triangle and constructing it, but the partnership will work with the business owners of 82nd Street in Elmhurst and Jackson Heights, as well as residents, to develop the design.

“It will be a fun sort of social gathering space,” Taylor said.

After the previous director of the organization was fired for negligence late last year, the 82nd Street Partnership has been working to turn the strip around by cleaning up the graffiti, planting new trees and installing Muni-Meters.

City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), who shares the partnership’s coverage area with Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst), said he hopes the renovation will include a lower fence around the triangle and single seating that will allow for a place for people to sit but not attract any homeless sleepers.

“It’s another step in my overall goal, which is to increase park space and open space in the community,” he said. “It’s another move in the right direction.”

The triangle was named after Jabez Dunningham, who lived in Elmhurst from the early 1920s until his death in 1945 at the age of 77, the Parks Department’s website said. Dunningham was the founder of the Queens Council of Civic Associations and a voice against pollution and excessive garbage, as well as an advocate for public transportation on Staten Island.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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