The city Parks Department will address one of the many needs at Cunningham Park by renovating the bathrooms with about $1.9 million that the areas current and former councilmen secured from the city for capital improvements, said Martha Taylor, founding chairwoman of the Friends of Cunningham Park.
The bathrooms, which are about 50 years old, are the most pressing concern on a list that includes problems with the ballfields, old buildings, playgrounds and fencing around the Fresh Meadows park, said Taylor.
Those bathrooms are sorely in need of repair, Taylor said. We need additional stalls ... Theyre old and stinky.
Construction is expected to begin next year and will completely refurbish the bathrooms, increasing the size, making the stalls handicap accessible, and getting rid of leaky toilets, sinks, and pipes, said Susan Seinfeld, director of constituent services for Councilman David Weprin (D-Hollis)
About $1.2 million of the projects funds were obtained by former Councilman Sheldon Leffler. Weprin hung onto that money and was able to appropriate another $700,000 or so to be used in Cunningham Park.
Many parkgoers have been unhappy with the state of the bathrooms and the long lines that form outside of the facilities during concerts and other large events held at Cunningham Park, Seinfeld said.
In the summer, the Big Apple Circus, the Metropolitan Opera, and other large crowd-drawing events are often held at the park and the bathrooms usually become overcrowded, Taylor said. She noted that she had to wait for about 40 minutes to use the womens room when she went to a concert a few years ago.
Repairs to other parts of the 350-plus-acre Cunningham Park probably will not be made anytime soon due to the financial difficulties the city is currently facing, Taylor said.
The ballfields, buildings, and fencing are beat up and badly in need of rehabilitation, she said, adding that the Friends of Cunningham Park understands the citys financial state and hopes repairs are made gradually.
If were lucky, well get money for pieces at a time, Taylor said.
A Cunningham Park playground was recently ranked as one of the most unsafe in the city and changes will be made to it when more money is available, said Marc Haken, president of Friends of Cunningham Park and coordinator of community relations for Weprin.
Haken said playground materials that were criticized for containing a carcinogenic substance have been removed and the remaining safety issues are only minor. Federal playground safety guidelines are frequently changed and the play areas at Cunningham Park complied with an older set of standards, he said.
On top of the large improvements, private donations are expected to fund minor additions to the park. Taylor said she hopes a butterfly garden and bat and owl houses will be added soon.
A garden would contain several types of perennial flowers to attract butterflies to the park, she said. Bats would combat mosquitoes and owls, mice, Taylor said.
Reach reporter Brendan Browne by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 155.
©2002 Community News Group
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