Restored park honors civic from another era

Albert Montbellier's grandson Joseph Vaska (l.) and city Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe (third from l.) are joined by local officials and children from Youth on the Rise Group Daycare to cut the ribbon. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Albert Montbellier dedicated most of his life to improving the quality of life in southeast Queens and the community has taken up his cause with an all-new, all different greenspace in the area.

Parks officials and City Councilman James Sanders (D-Laurelton) officially opened the renovated Montbellier Park Monday to a crowd of schoolchildren who were waiting to try out the new play equipment.

Sanders said was able to secure $1.8 million to upgrade the playground after years of neglect made it a place that no child or parent would want to visit after school.

“We did this for you,” the councilman said to a group of youngsters. “When you build a park, you build for the future.”

There are several new amenities for the children to choose from. In addition to new swings, slides and jungle gyms, the playground includes a glass fiber-reinforced concrete structure that simulates rock climbing.

New benches and tables were installed for multiple uses such as board games and congregating, according to Adrian Benepe, the city Parks commissioner.

The playground also includes a new sprinkler system for kids who want to cool off during the summer.

In addition to the play area, the playground’s overall look was given a makeover, too. Crews planted new trees and decorative grasses that complement the newly painted concrete ground.

Yvonne Reddick, the district manager for Community Board 12, which oversees the Springfield Boulevard park, said she was impressed with the changes to the play space.

“We are moving up,” she said.

Montbellier, who died in 1963, served on the borough president’s Committee on Aviation Problems and was a leading civic advocate for more than 30 years. A year after his death, the city opened the park and named it in his honor, but time was taking its toll on the space, according to Sanders.

“The city with its economy did not keep up with the park,” he said.

Sanders was able to secure money three years ago to fix the park’s soccer fields and then continued to renovate the rest of the space. Montbellier’s grandchildren, who joined Sanders for a little test of the playground’s swings, thanked the councilman for not only fixing the park but also keeping their family’s legacy alive.

“The Parks Department has taken good care of the park over the years,” Montbellier’s grandson, Joseph Vaska, said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4546.

Posted 6:56 pm, October 26, 2011
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