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Lefferts Playground construction begins

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After years of letter writing and lobbying, the Locust Grove Civic Association broke ground last Thursday on the new Lefferts Playground with elected officials in South Ozone Park.

At the park, City Councilwoman Juanita Watkins (D-Laurelton), who with Borough President Claire Shulman funded the $1.3 million project, stood amid mounds of loose soil and thanked the community for their persistence.

“You kept sticking us, prodding us and reminding us that you’re out there and you need something,” Watkins said.

The park’s new playground is to be relocated from the center of the park at North Conduit Boulevard and 122nd Street to the northwestern corner where a traffic light and cross walk allow for safer entry.

The grounds are expected to open January next year, but Queens Parks Commissioner Richard Murphy, who praised the efficient work of contractor Jim Doyle, said that date may arrive sooner than planned.

The park’s redesign will accommodate more green space with lawns and plantings, a spray water fountain, state-of-the-art play equipment, basketball courts, game tables, an asphalt running track and trees along the edges to muffle the sound of passing cars.

The new park was designed by Emmanuel Tingue, who said he created an “organic and water lily” motif rather than hard geometric angles.

Donna Gilmartin, president of the Locust Grove Civic Association, said Watkins’ efforts were especially generous in light of the way that council district is drawn.

While the park falls within her district, the residents living directly across the street who use the park fall into a separate council district.

“That’s why it’s so sweet of Juanita Watkins. People over there can’t even vote for her,” Gilmartin said.

For several years portions of the playground remained closed for public use because of safety concerns. The entrance to the playground had been located off North Conduit Avenue without allowances for pedestrian crossing.

In the late ‘80s a neighborhood resident crossed North Conduit Avenue on his way to the park with his two children in hand. A car traveling down the avenue struck the family, killing one child.

Reach reporter Jennifer Warren by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 155.

Posted 7:06 pm, October 10, 2011
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