Boro Park residents and Brooklyn officials celebrated the completion of extensive renovations to Gravesend Park Tuesday morning, at a ribbon-cutting ceremony marking the re-opening of “18th Avenue Park.”
Tuesday’s event marks the completion of a 15-month, $7.25-million renovation that provided four new playgrounds, two new swing-set areas, two new basketball courts, two baseball fields, four new handball courts, 50 new benches, seven new water fountains, hundreds of new trees and plants, as well as new and improved walkways and safety surfaces.
The ceremony was hosted by New York City Councilman David Greenfield, who secured the funding for renovations. Greenfield has secured a total of $35 million in funding to have every park in his district renovated.
A number of other officials also attended, including State Senator Simcha Felder, who initiated funding for renovations to the park when he was a city councilman; Brooklyn Parks Commissioner Kevin Jeffrey; Community Board 12 District Manager Barry Spitzer, and Capt. Robert Conwell, executive officer of the 66th police precinct.
“Improving the 18th Avenue Park was particularly personal for me,” Greenfield said. “I used to play in that park when I was growing up, and until I took it on, this area of the park had been sadly neglected for over 30 years. Now that the renovations are complete, I believe the 18th Avenue Park is the most beautiful park in southern Brooklyn. I can’t wait to take my children to play there, and I invite everyone in our community to come out and enjoy our beautiful new park.”
“Parks like this are a haven for children and the elderly,” said Felder. “They are a melting pot for all New Yorkers.”
The ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on the 19th Avenue side of the park, which runs from 56th to 58th Streets. On the 18th Avenue side of the park, a new comfort station is being built, and is expected to be completed in six months.
Boro Park residents who attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony — many with children or grandchildren — praised the park’s new beauty to Hamodia, although some questioned the price tag and renovation time.
“I grew up here, and live nearby now with my own children,” said Moshe Blum, a young father pushing a child in a stroller. “The park is beautiful, it’s kid-friendly, it’s very nice.
“When I was growing up, it was much smaller; I remember when there were just a few swing sets. There are so many more things for the kids now; it’s up to date,” said Blum.
But Menachem Daum, a grandfather who has lived in this neighborhood for 47 years, said he was “very upset about this whole project.” While acknowledging the new park’s beauty, he said, “I don’t see $7 million worth of improvements here.” Also, he said, the 15-month time frame of the renovations meant that the park was closed to his grandchildren for two summers. “This [renovation] could have taken three months,” he insisted.
“It’s very nice. But why did it take so long and why did it cost so much?”
Another long-time resident, Mordechai Friedman, praised the renovations and expressed hope that the park’s safety would be improved as well.
“There are not many places in this community where bad elements can hang out, and they often used to congregate in the park,” said Friedman. “I remember when there were times you couldn’t walk here. They would hang out late at night and in the morning you would find paraphernalia from illegal substances strewn about. You couldn’t bring kids here.
“During the past two summers, with the park closed for renovations, it’s been quiet and I have, for a change, been able to sleep on Friday nights. Now that the park is re-opening, I hope that police are vigilant in enforcing the laws, closing the park at night, and keeping out illegal substances and loud music so that this park will be a beautiful place for families for years to come.
“This is a new beginning,” he said. “We hope the park will always look as beautiful as it does today.”