2005-08-18 / Other News

Sam Curtis Park Makeover Turns Blight Into Blessing

By Neil S. Friedman

“How sweet it is!” said City Coun-cilman Lew Fidler, quoting the late Jackie Gleason at Tuesday’s dedication ceremony of Sam Curtis Park on Foster Avenue between East 81st and 82nd streets.

For residents in the vicinity, it’s been a long time coming and those words were more than welcome. After years of having the 35,000 square-foot neighborhood park, derisively called “a concrete jungle,” due to its unsightly physical facade, considered the worst park in New York by some city officials that became notorious as a hangout for drinking and drugs.

Fidler put the event in a nutshell when he said the park has been transformed “from a neighborhood blight into a boon.”

The park dedication, presided over by New York City Parks and Recre-ation Department commissioner Adrian Benepe, included a ribbon-cutting that officially unveiled the $2.7 million project that has been in the works for more than five years, but delayed because of post-9/11 budget priorities. Former City Council members Herb Berman and Patricia Wooten, whose districts shared the park site, acquired the bulk of the funding to upgrade the neglected play area. Federal grant money also contributed to the final cost, as well as money from the borough president’s budget.

The park’s makeover took approxi-mately four months and boasts safety-surfaced, brightly colored playground equipment with swings, slides, ladders, a spray shower and a climbing wall, which Benepe believes is the first of its kind in a city park, plus new benches, fresh landscaping, a drinking fountain and a new comfort station.

In his opening remarks, Benepe said, “Playgrounds are intrinsic to the experience of growing up in New York City. They’re places where children make friends, as well as develop physical skills. Sam Curtis Park is a clean safe place for children and one of the most beautiful parks we’ve ever built.”

Jean Maynard, president of the East 81st Block Association since 1991, told the Canarsie Courier , “Everyone in the community benefits when there’s a beautification project like this….Our Children will finally have a nice play to play.”

State Assembly Member Helene Weinstein, who grew up a few blocks from the park and remembers it as an distinct eyesore, said “We finally have a playground like we always wanted it to be.”

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