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In my Feb. 26 column, I wrote about the wonderful green playground at my old junior high school, now IS 73, in Maspeth. The Trust for Public Land worked with students and local residents to make this a great destination for children and adults all year ’round.
The trust, founded in 1972, is a national nonprofit that specializes in conservation real estate, applying its expertise in negotiation, finance and law to protect land for people. Its New York City Program, headed by Andy Stone, has been at work in Queens for many years.
TPL negotiated the purchase by the city Parks Department of 1.25 acres in Udalls Cove in Douglaston, providing access to a public trail and wildlife preserve. It also coordinated the donation of 6,000 square feet of land and conservation easements, ensuring the protection of two additional lots on an additional 0.5 acres. This land is managed by the Douglaston Manor Environmental Association.
Ten years ago, The trust announced the protection of 0.61 acres in Udalls Ravine, making it part of the Udalls Park Preserve, managed by the Parks Department. Funds appropriated in the City Council budget for that year helped fulfill the wishes of the former owner, Mary Stuart, that it be designated parkland.
This was the culmination of more than 25 years of efforts to protect land in this area. Udalls Ravine is a watershed that feeds Udalls Cove, a tributary to Little Neck Bay and the Long Island Sound. The protection of this land complements the 625 acres of Alley Pond Park. As Irene Scheid, executive director of the Alley Pond Environmental Center, said at the time of the last acquisition, “Preserved open space is vital to the quality of life for all — wildlife and humans alike.”
The first City Spaces Program in Queens was at MS 216 in Fresh Meadows, dedicated in June 2006. At IS 73, the trust worked with students, teachers and parents to plan the transformation of an asphalt lot into a one−acre community park. The new open space includes a fitness area, a large ball field with a surrounding running track, painted games and a map of the United States, a water fountain, trees, benches, an outdoor classroom and a restored handball court.
It is available to the school on site and five other schools within one mile of MS 216. It serves the 1,400 students of the school and children and families in the surrounding area for after−school and weekend activities.
In 2007, another three months of meetings with students, teachers and parents culminated in the dedication in September of a new community playground at the Judge Charles J. Vallone School — PS 85 — in Long Island City. Here, again, a barren, one−acre asphalt lot has become a great new community amenity. The design includes a vibrant mural, junior basketball court, a stage, synthetic turf field, garden, greenhouse, three outdoor classrooms, safety surface play areas, painted games, trees and benches. It is a K−5 school.
In May, another formerly barren, 1−acre asphalt lot unveiled its new look, once more the result of the trust working with the school and community leaders. MS 53, the Brian Piccolo School in Far Rockaway, now has an open space that includes a track and field, a stage, a basketball court, a gazebo, a volleyball⁄handball play space, play equipment, a world map, trees and benches.
When I wrote about the trust before, I commented on how it has effectively and quietly worked to enrich the lives of so many people in the city. Stone and his staff have shown how public−private sponsorships can work with government to make things better. The wonderful open spaces in Queens are a tangible sign of the success of many people, brought together by the Trust for Public Land. They deserve our thanks.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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