Olga Rudenko had a big smile on her face as she watched her toddler Caroline run toward the slide in Lt. Joseph Petrosino Park in Bensonhurst on Thursday morning. Little Caroline apparently couldn’t wait to go down the slide, even on this cold day when the temperature dipped below 32 degrees.
“This looks beautiful!” Rudenko said as she looked around the park, which the city had just finished renovating. As little Caroline and other children played on the slide, City Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony to mark the completion of the $4.9 million project.
Named in honor of Lt. Joseph Petrosino, the New York Police Department’s first Italian-American detective who was killed in the line of duty in 1909, the trapezoidal park is bounded by New Utrecht Avenue, 16th Avenue, 71st Street and 72nd Street.
Under the renovation project, the Parks Department modernized the recreation area with new play equipment, basketball courts, adult fitness equipment, picnic tables and a spray shower. The park’s entrances were rebuilt to make them look more inviting and new fencing, pathways and flower beds were installed.
“They did a really good job,” Rudenko told this newspaper before the start of the ribbon cutting ceremony. “What was here before was a disaster. There was a basketball court and a couple of swings. That’s it.”
The work was done under the de Blasio administration’s Community Parks Initiative, a $318 million program launched in 2014 to revamp long-neglected parks in densely populated areas of the city that have high percentages of residents living below the poverty line.
Silver noted that the last major rehab of Petrosino Park took place back in 1993. “That’s 26 years ago,” he said. “It was definitely time for a serious makeover.”
The Parks Department teamed up with the Department of Environmental Protection, which spent $355,000 to install “green infrastructure” in the park, including a new drainage system.
State Sen. Andrew Gounardes, Assemblymember Peter Abbate, Councilmember Justin Brannan and Community Board 11 District Manager Marnee Elias-Pavia all attended the ceremony.
“It’s a very good day to be a kid from Brooklyn. This is really a great day for the neighborhood,” Brannan said. “There are lots of young families moving into the neighborhood,” he said, adding that they will now get the chance to enjoy a park that looks brand new.
Abbate recalled that he used to live near Petrosino Park and used to hang out there with his friends when he was a teenager. “This is a beautiful sight to see,” he said, looking around the park.
Gounardes said he was impressed by the renovation work. When he was campaigning for his Senate seat in 2018, he would stand at the entrance to the nearby 71st Street D train subway station to greet voters. “I would look over at this park and see a giant pit full of dirt,” he said. “Here we are a year later and we have this beautiful, beautiful park.”
A group of students from P.S. 112, an elementary school located a few blocks from the park, also came for the reopening ceremony.
“Parks are where you form friendships,” Silver told the youngsters. He also asked the kids to do their best to look after the park.
After the speeches were done, Silver and Brooklyn Parks Commission Marty Maher led the dignitaries to an area near the play equipment where a green ribbon had been set up for the ribbon cutting.
Lt. Joseph Petrosino Park officially got its name in 1999, when the City Council passed a bill authorizing the naming to honor the slain police detective. But the park actually dates back to 1935. The city opened a playground at the site that year.