Consider the Hart Playground in Woodside: The echo of children at play. The rhythmic creaking of swings going back and forth, and kids trying to time their jumps from the swings to the rhythm. The playground equipment, faded and well worn, from the years of endless use.
The playground, at 37th Avenue and 65th Street, hasn’t been renovated since 1996. But now, it is set to get nearly $3 million in upgrades.
“It’s been 20 years since the playground received an upgrade, and the children and families of Woodside deserve a neighborhood park with the latest, safest equipment and structures to play and enjoy,” Queens Borough President Melinda Katz said in a statement.
The playground will feature new equipment, bathrooms, benches and greenery “that would clearly map out the children’s section,” according to the officials of The Parks Department, who released the plan at Community Board 2’s Land Use Committee meeting last week.
The park, at present, has an open layout. Children’s and adult space are not properly outlined, according to Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer. “Adults without children often wander over to the playground area, concerning some parents,” he said. “The redesign will aim at clearly separating these spaces through the placement of trees and shrubs.”
The Hart playground has been the site of controversy over the last few years as many parents have expressed concerns about day laborers congregating near the play area and the homeless using the bathrooms.
A long-time resident of Woodside, who gave only her first name, “Mary,” said she has noticed adults from Quality Inn, a homeless shelter located near the park, hanging out there. She said this made her worry about children playing in the park. “Many adults pass out in front of the playground with liquor bottles scattered all over,” she said.
Julia Santos said she has stopped going to the playground altogether. She said she feels that “going to the cemetery in Queens Boulevard for green space and cleaner air is much better.”
The plan for the restoration of the playground was announced by Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz last year.
“The plan is to make the park more inviting place for toddlers, older children, and adults,” said Queens Park Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski.
Built in 1956, the Woodside Hart Playground, according to Katz, is named after Brigadier General Joseph T. Hart, a decorated World War II veteran who lived in Elmhurst.
“The park will be closed during construction. Adults and children can play at a nearby playground that is a few blocks away,” said Nathan Hart, no relation to the general, an official with the Parks Department.
The construction of the park is expected to begin in the spring of 2019 and will take about a year to complete, said Lewandowski. The planning will begin this winter with meetings to hear the thoughts of the community. Lewandowski explained in her statement that projects like these usually take about three years from start to finish.