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Dry Harbor playground to get fixed

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Preliminary sketches of a redesign that would overhaul Myrtle Avenue’s Dry Harbor Playground were met with enthusiasm at a public forum Monday night at which Glendale residents asked the Parks Department to protect the new equipment from vandals.

The few dozen people who attended also endorsed the laying of artificial turf along Brennan Field, the heavily used athletic grounds inside the running track at Juniper Valley Park.

The meeting, held by the Parks Committee of Community Board 5 in the basement of Sacred Heart Church Hall, brought area residents together with the park designers to gather input on the two projects, both of which are slated to be completed within the upcoming year.

The Dry Harbor Playground redesign is in the preliminary stages of its first phase — a $1 million reconstruction of the central playground, an area park officials said has been long overdue for improvements.

“It’s a very old playground, very antiquated, very outdated and it really doesn’t serve the community at all,” said JoAnne Amagrande-Savarese, the Parks Department chief of staff in Queens.

Park designer Helen Ogrinz said a public meeting held in October brought to light three key issues in the park design: Parents want “a great playground for their children,” easier access to the park and play equipment that is not tucked away in the back of the park as it is now.

The park, which lies directly south of Myrtle Avenue by 80th Street, is at least 10 feet above the street level, set apart by a tall red-brick retaining wall so high it obscures any view of the park from the roadway.

The redesign would remove the wall and replace it with a gentle slope, a security measure intended to improve visibility into the park and therefore prevent it from being vandalized or used as a loitering ground.

The oval-shaped shell of a former wading pool that sits in the center of the park would remain in place, but its 160-foot span would be transformed into the base of the central playground, appeasing parents’ wishes that the play equipment be contained and brought to a more visible location within the park.

Swing sets would be set directly behind the wading pool playground area.

Roberta Maureau, the director of Dry Harbor Preschool, which sits in the park only feet from the proposed new playground, said the redesign “is really what the community wants.”

“It’s terrible, it’s very unsafe, the equipment,” she said. “There’s nothing for the children to hold onto when they climb.”

But community residents warned park officials to find a means of locking up the park at night to prevent vandals from ruining the investment.

“If you leave it open, I guarantee they’re going to destroy it in a couple of years,” said Paul Schottenhamel, 54, of Glendale.

City Councilman Dennis Gallagher (R-Middle Village) agreed that the Parks Department should look into locking the central playground area but also supported the removal of the front wall as an effective first step.

“A lot of the problems we had in the park is because nobody can see into it, nobody can see what is happening,” he said.

Many also complained that pet owners walk their dogs in the park but fail to pick up their droppings. They recommended stepping up enforcement and possibly installing a dog run in a later stage of the project.

The preliminary sketches for this phase of the redesign are due in June, and the project is expected to be completed by next spring.

In Juniper Valley Park, the $1.4 million renovation of Brennan Field will cover its length with two-inch high artificial turf.

The field and the running track around it both will be closed during the six-month construction, which will prepare the field to accommodate football and soccer matches, with removable goal posts for both sports and the ability to paint the appropriate lines directly onto the field.

The artificial surface is highly durable — capable of accommodating all forms of footwear, including metal spikes — and can easily be maintained by sweeping it, landscape architect Michael Bolger said.

“What we have now is dirt and rocks and mud,” said Timon Kalpaxis, the youth coordinator for BW Gottschee, a soccer club based in Ridgewood that frequently uses the field. “It’s like playing on the moon.”

“This new surface is state-of-the-art, extremely durable,” he continued. “It plays very well, it’s flat, it’ll last a long time.”

Both projects were financed with funds already allocated by former city Councilman Tom Ognibene (R-Middle Village).

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.

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