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Renovated Frontera Park opens with tree-care lesson

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City Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe used a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the newly renovated Frontera Park in Maspeth as an opportunity to urge New Yorkers to help trees that are dying from the blistering summer heat and low rain levels.

“It was the driest July since 1910. Street trees must depend on neighbors to take care of them,” said Benepe at the ceremony Friday following the $750,000 reconstruction of the park on 69th Street at 58th Avenue, which included the addition of several sapling trees.

The city’s stage one drought and temperatures greater than 90 degrees are endangering the lives of many trees across the city, Benepe said, adding that last month the city got only about 1 inch of rain. Young trees that do not have as deep roots as older trees suffer the most, he said.

The Parks Department said it is permissible to water trees on the street, private property, in parks and other public areas before 11 a.m. and after 7 p.m. and called on residents to do so.

Benepe also demonstrated methods of keeping trees hydrated. He used a device called a “gator,” or a plastic skirt that is wrapped around a tree’s base and filled with 15 to 20 inches of water that empty slowly out the bottom. A garbage bag or large pail with holes in the bottom can have the same effect, he said.

Residents can obtain a gator from the Parks Department by calling (212) 360-TREE and joining its Stewardship Program to take care of trees.

Benepe also advised New Yorkers to save bath and shower water, which can also be used to assist trees.

Just feet away from the news conference, children ran through the park’s new “fireman’s hose” spray showers to cool off. The showers go along with the firefighter theme at the park, which pays tribute to Queens firefighters and their service to the city, Benepe said.

“Firefighters serve with dedication and courage and we as park servants take every opportunity to thank them,” said Benepe, whose sentiments were echoed by Councilwoman Melinda Katz (D-Forest Hills), who was also on hand for the ribbon cutting.

Benepe reminded park goers that in 1958 the park was named after Frank Frontera, an Italian immigrant who served as a volunteer firefighter in Maspeth until age 91.

The playground is in the shape of an antique fire engine pulled by concrete horses. New swings, slides, safety surfacing, and other climbing equipment are part of the renovation as well.

Benepe said the Parks Department will also start on a $250,000 renovation of the park’s basketball courts in the fall.

Reach reporter Brendan Browne by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 155.

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