Streaks of little neon yellow and orange vests are woven into the shades of cream, blue, brown and green of the new park. Joyous smiles and childlike laughter fills the space. A fitting emotion for a celebratory occasion: a ribbon cutting ceremony for a newly renovated park
NYC Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue, Brooklyn Parks Borough Commissioner Martin Maher, Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso, Council Member Jennifer Gutiérrez, representatives from the North Brooklyn Parks Alliance and El Puente, and community members all came together on August 19 to cut the ribbon for the newly renovated La Guardia Playground in South Williamsburg.
The $6.74 million renovation of La Guardia Playground was completed in two phases and funded through the Community Parks Initiative. CPI launched in 2014 as a means to invest in under-resourced parks in low income, high density areas in NYC. Since 2014, CPI has fixed 67 parks, 65 of which are open publicly. They plan to select 10 new CPI sites a year for the next 10 years, bringing the total number to 167. These new sites are focused on areas hardest hit by COVID-19.
The two sections of the park are divided by the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. The playground was reconstructed and opened in two phases, in 2020 and 2022. The first phase of the project rebuilt the south part of the park with refurbished basketball and handball courts, an adult fitness area, a new seating area with tables and chairs, and a rain garden to aid in sustainable stormwater management.
The second phase tackled the northern part of the park with new play equipment for kids aged 2 – 5 and 5 – 12, a tot-sized seating area, and brand-new water play features. A wider planted edge was installed along Borinquen Place to screen vehicular traffic and help mitigate emissions from the nearby roadways.
The ribbon cutting took place at the northern part of the park where little toddlers in neon yellow and orange vests were already taking the rebuilt park for a spin.
“Today we are celebrating the completion of the first full reconstruction of La Guardia Playground in nearly 40 years, making this a space that the South Williamsburg community can be proud of. That’s what the Community Parks Initiative is all about!” said NYC Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue.
La Guardia Playground was built in 1937 in connection with the Williamsburg Bridge. The last major development to the playground was in 1985. The playground is named after Mayor Fiorello La Guardia who served for three terms as mayor.
Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso joked that the last major development in 1985 was before Council Member Jennifer Gutiérrez was born. He mentions how he didn’t have the newly renovated La Guardia to go to growing up in South Williamsburg but is happy kids will get to experience what he didn’t. Brooklyn Borough President Reynoso is also glad that other part of the park bisected by the Williamsburg bridge ramp maintained the handball courts that are significant to the Puerto Rican community who’ve played at the playground since the 1950s and 60s. It’s a reminder of being “culturally sensitive to what we’re building.”
“We can’t allow for the infrastructure decisions of the past to destroy our ability to build for the future. And that is what this park is, is building for the future.” said Brooklyn Borough President Reynoso.
Council Member Gutiérrez, who brought her daughter Hazel to the ribbon cutting, echoed that statement.
“So now we know two things. We know that government can invest in our public spaces if we push enough, right, and we know that they can get it done fairly quickly…And I welcome all of you along with us to continue to push parks. continue to push this administration to do what’s right and do what’s right by our community and invest.”
Advocates like Asenhat Gomez, Deputy Director of Programs of El Puente, are also very happy to see this day come, especially for the Latino community, who congregate in La Guardia Playground.
“The southside is third in the city of having the least amount of green spaces, and in turns that impacts our people’s health. And we’re glad that Parks [NYC Parks] is beginning to see that it’s not just about the physical renovation of a park, but it is also about the health of a community” said Gomez.
El Puente is a human rights organization that was originally created by Luis Acosta to stop the epidemic wave of violence in the Southside Williamsburg community. The reconstruction of the park has been one of the issues concerning environmental health El Puente had been fighting for. Council Member Gutiérrez commended the tremendous job El Puente has done for years monitoring the community’s air quality study. Gomez knows the work is not done; they hope the renovations will expand to Continental Army Plaza.
Come through to La Guardia Playground, South 4th St. between Roebling St. and Williamsburg Bridge Ramp, and witness all the wonderful new renovations the community has fought for.