While sections of Andrews Grove in Long Island City remain closed to the public, residents celebrated the reopening of the playground Friday with a Christmas tree and a rededication to making “Shady Park” shady again.
“Everyone here has been heartbroken since Sandy about the loss and absence of this park,” said Sheila Lewandowski, a Long Island City resident best known for her role as executive director of The Chocolate Factory theater, who has spearheaded the drive to clean Andrews Grove.
The park, on 49th Avenue between 5th Street and Vernon Boulevard, suffered major damage during Hurricane Sandy. Playground equipment was destroyed and several large Linden trees, which had given Andrews Grove the nickname “Shady Park,” were knocked over, leaving large pits in the ground and rendering the playground inaccessible.
“I’ve watched [children] cry along the fence,” Lewandowski said.
To return Shady Park to its former glory, Lewandowski and a neighbor started “Friends of Shady Park” the day after the storm. The group has more than 200 “likes” on Facebook and is working with City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) to get new trees planted in the park.
While that day has not yet come, the north side of the park near 49th Avenue and the playground equipment on the west side of the park were officially opened Saturday. The day before, Van Bramer said about a dozen volunteers swept up about 20 bags worth of debris in the park and put up Christmas decorations along the northern fence. With some neighborhood kids, many from PS 78 at 48-09 Center Blvd., the volunteers then placed bows, ornaments and tinsel on a Christmas tree for Shady Park.
“It’s great because of you, because of these children,” Van Bramer told the volunteers.
State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) said he visited PS 78, which was flooded during Sandy, around Election Day and many of the students said they wanted the playground back.
“We really saw how much pain it caused the children of this neighborhood and how much they love this park,” he said.
The swing set and the playground in the center of the park remain closed to the public.
Van Bramer said while the city Parks Department will replant trees at one point, he has approached private corporations for help if the community wants an equivalent of the Linden trees back in Andrews Grove.
He did not have an estimate on how much repairing the park would cost.
“They’ve got some work to do here,” he said.
To the north, Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) also hosted a cleanup Friday of Sean’s Place Playground, at 31st Avenue and Broadway in Astoria. The park, named after slain police officer Sean McDonald, is a common target for litterers.
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cn
©2012 Community News Group
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