Back in August 2010, Travers Park received nearly $2 million in park renovations ($1.5 million allocated by Council Member Helen Sears, and $317,000 by Mayor Michael Bloomberg). Up until this renovation, the park had its last renovation in 1995.1 This allocation expanded the park to include a leaf and vine spray shower
and to make the park wheelchair-accessible to those with disabilities. The funding also went to install new bike racks, benches, and plants to help make the park more “green.” However, this renovation was not received in open arms. According to Len Maniace, chairman of the Friends of Travers Park, “the renovation wasn’t needed” and would rather see the money spent on increasing park space or on a new tennis court.2 This renovation proved to be a real burden and hardship to those who didn’t have anywhere else to go. For example, Will Sweeney, co-founder of the Jackson Heights Green Alliance, didn’t have a place to take his 1-year-old son during the renovation. More recently however, on March 21, Garden School in Jackson Heights (which had over $2 million in debt last year) agreed to sell its schoolyard to the city for $6 million.3
This 30,000 square foot expansion to Travers Park benefits both the school’s financial needs, and park goers’ basic needs. Daniel Dromm however, the Democratic city councilman who represents the area, said it would take additional contributions to renovate the park, taking up to at least a year. Most importantly though, according to Howard Wolfson, a deputy mayor who was directly involved in the negotiations, “at the end of the day, everyone got something they wanted.”
78th Street between Northern Blvd. and 34th Avenue, which runs between the two properties, will be changed into a permanent pedestrian plaza instead of just being closed to traffic in the summer to connect the two.4 Although the park size has been extended, as part of the deal, the Garden School has the exclusive use of the current athletic field yard until 4pm on school days. Public use of the yard will be in the evenings, weekends and when the school is closed.