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By Madina Toure

The city Parks Department hosted a public scoping meeting last week to get ideas from the community about improving circulation and the aesthetics of the Lawrence Playground in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

The discussion, held at the Al Oerter Recreation Center at 131-40 Fowler Ave. Jan. 27, sought to solicit input from the community about the playground, located on Lawrence Street and College Point Boulevard. It is bounded by the Van Wyck Expressway, the Queens Botanical Garden and College Point Boulevard.

The project, for which Parks has set aside $4.2 million, is to renovate the park and upgrade the comfort station.

Nancy Owens, the designer for the project, said they will be looking at a variety of facets, including the entrances to the park, the views looking out from the park and the edges.

“Part of our scope of work is to redesign the playground for all ages, water play and to renovate the comfort station so it’s handicapped accessible,” Owens said.

Other ideas include more play areas, sitting areas, planted areas, trees and water fountains.

The proposal is currently in the project initiation phase, which lasts one to two months and involves the assigning of a designer and a public scoping meeting. The time line for a capital project is typically between 30 months to 45 months.

The playground honors William Lawrence, the first Englishman to settle on Tues Neck, the small peninsula now known as College Point. It has children’s swings, climbing equipment, two dolphin-shaped climbing sculptures, picnic tables, a comfort station, chess and checker tables and two basketball courts.

During the group discussion, the Reyes family—David, 44; Carol, 40; Justin, 12; Adrian, 9; and Christian, 7— were eagerly sharing their perspective.

Their suggestions included rock climbing, trails, monkey bars, a family room, more shade during hot weather in the summertime, water stations, more street signs between entrances, charging stations, a skate park and art at the entrance.

David said the family has gone to the playground a few times in the past, citing the park’s location as a concern.

“Even though we want to be welcoming, it’s hard to be welcoming and open when we’re so close in proximity to the highway,” he said.

Carol said it is difficult to pinpoint the entrance.

“When you’re in the car, you don’t know what’s coming up until you get there and then once you’re there, you don’t know how to get in because there’s a lot of gates,” she said.

Christian just wants to see the park upgraded.

“I just think it needs a little more attention,” he said.

Community Board 7 member Kim Ohanian, chairwoman of the board’s parks committee, said 2- to 5-year-olds and even 5- to 12-year-olds should be protected but wondered whether fences would be lowered with the exception of the basketball courts.

She also suggested features geared toward parents.

“There really is nothing here for adults,” Ohanian said.

Janice Melnick, administrator of Flushing Meadows Corona Park, said the agency will make a decision based on the amount of space and money available.

“Something like a soccer field or something like a tennis court just takes up so much space,” she said. “That would take up the whole playground and we couldn’t help the playground.”

Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtoure@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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