Sunset kids rejoice as playground officially opens

Good things happen to those who wait.

After 15 long months and nearly two summers without a place for kids in the area to play, the ribbon was cut on Sunset Park’s newly renovated playground.

Although most of the space — within the neighborhood’s namesake park at Fifth Avenue and 44th Street — was open to the public towards the end of July, the celebration was held on Thursday, August 17 in the newly refurbished space. New York City Parks Brooklyn Borough Commissioner Martin Maher and Councilmember Carlos Menchaca were on hand, along with members of Community Board 7 and local residentss to discuss the impressive upgrades.

“It’s amazing,” Maher told this paper as he explained how the upgrades came about. “Though (the playground) was on the same footprint, it had fewer amenities so this is the product of a lot of community input. We took one of the local groups, Sprig (Sunset Park Revitalization and Improvement Group) and parents on a tour of parks in the borough to see the features they wanted. We got a lot of input from the community. The councilmember funded the project and here we are. This is the culmination of all that work.”

The new space includes a new sandbox, playhouses for tots, swings for older and younger kids, four huge pieces of play equipment with more on the way, two drinking fountains, and an interactive spray shower which conserves water.

“Everything is completely new,” Maher stressed. “When we do playgrounds in any project, we use green architecture. It’s not as cagey looking. It’s more inviting to go in. There’s a much lower fence. There’s landscaping around it.”

Parents are also thrilled that the long wait has concluded. “It’s been a long time coming,” said Sunset-born parent Johanna Bjorken. “In 2011, when my son was not yet two, it was in terrible shape and under capacity. This is the result of a lot of hard work from people in the community. Thank goodness we have it. The kids in this neighborhood need a place to play and you can see since it’s opened, it’s been packed.”

Her son, now seven, is already enjoying the space. “He’s so excited,” she said. “He loves the climbing structures, the ropes.”

“Today we are celebrating what happens when such a diverse community of cultures unites and come together to fight for their kids,” said Menchaca. “You can see how the kids are responding to it. They deserve it here in Sunset Park.”

CB 7 chimed in on the space and the process. “Delays are something no one wants, including the Parks Committee and the community, but it’s a great thing that it’s open,” said Victor Swinton, the chair of the Parks Committee for CB 7. “It’s utilized to the fullest by these kids. I came up Sunday to take a look of it and it was crowded, so it’s a beautiful thing, having it open for the community.”

“You can look at the joy on these kids’ faces and how many kids are about to come out here and enjoy their park,” added District Manager for CB 7 Jeremy Laufer. “This is a very heavily used park. It was a real difficulty not having the children’s playground, particularly because there aren’t many other facilities in the area, but now that it’s open and it’s a nice, big facility, I think it will service many more kids than previous facilities here.”

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