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Murray Playground Dog Run Closed for Soil Contamination

The dog run at Murray Playground has been closed since the afternoon of Feb. 14 after the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation discovered high levels of contaminants in the soil, including lead and arsenic. In a statement to the Queens Ledger, a spokesperson for NYC Parks said other areas of the park are also being closed until the department is confident they are uncontaminated.

“The safety of our park patrons is always our top priority, and we moved quickly to close the dog run at Murray Playground as soon as we found signs of potential soil contamination,” the statement said. “Out of an abundance of caution, we have also fenced off open grass areas at the park while we conduct further testing.”

According to the spokesperson, paved and covered parts of the park — including the playground — do not pose a risk of contamination.

“As the playground space is covered with pavement and a play surface, there is no pathway for exposure, and this portion of the park remains open,” the statement said. “The duration of the dog run closure is yet to be determined.”

Council Member Julie Won said she is working with the Parks Department to keep constituents updated on the soil testing process and a timeline for the park’s reopening to the public.

“On February 21, I sent a letter to NYC Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue requesting that Parks provide an updated timeline for soil retesting and that all areas where children have contact with contaminated soil be fenced off,” Won said in a public statement. “As a mother, the safety of your children is my top priority. We will continue to provide information on a timeline for soil retesting once we receive a response from Parks.”


Up to the ‘Challenge’

The Parks Department broke ground on a playground in Little Neck designed specifically for kids with special needs in mind.
Challenge Playground is located at 251st Street and 61st Avenue. It is adjacent to PS 811, a school that serves students with disabilities.
“We’re excited to break ground on renovations that will transform Challenge Playground into a more inclusive and accessible green space,” said Queens Parks Commissioner Michael Dockett last Thursday. “Upon completion, Queens residents and visitors can enjoy enhanced play and integral family-friendly space for recreation and outdoor fun.”
Councilman Barry Grodenchik said when he first took office, he visited the playground, which he said was really just a piece of asphalt. He pushed for the renovations, which are getting underway just six months before he leaves office.
“The improvements will create an amazing outdoor space where local residents, especially children, will be able to connect, interact, and thrive for years to come,” he said.
The playground will feature the usual amenities often found on city playgrounds, such as swings, slides and spray showers. But it will also feature auditory and visual elements with shadow effects, sounds and touchable textures.
The $3 million project should be completed by spring of 2022.
“Challenge Playground has a special place in our community’s history and it’s long time to rebuild this important public asset,” said State Senator John Liu.

Parks cuts ribbon on Almeda Playground renovations

The Parks Department recently celebrated the total reconstruction of Almeda Playground, an $8.1 million project funded through the Community Parks Initiative (CPI), the city program aimed at building a more equitable park system.
Almeda Playground has been completely renovated with upgraded features and amenities. This playground now features a more inclusive play area, outdoor classroom, spray showers, adult fitness area, basketball and handball courts, shaded seating areas, and more.
As requested by the community, the project also enhanced the playground’s greenery.
Launched in October 2014, CPI is the Parks Department’s first major equity initiative that includes a multi-faceted investment in smaller public parks located in the cCity’s densely populated and growing neighborhoods with higher-than-average concentrations of poverty.
“Since its launch, the Community Parks Initiative has taken transformative steps towards creating a more accessible parks system for all New Yorkers,” said Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver. “It’s outstanding to see these underused spaces transformed into community assets.”
Almeda Playground, located on the Rockaway peninsula, is named for nearby Almeda Avenue. The area was spotted by Henry Hudson in 1609 and served as home to a small tribe of Canarsie Indians.
The playground opened in 1965, and serves as a recreational space for the students of P.S. 42 and the surrounding neighborhoods.
“The coronavirus pandemic has underscored the need for access to fresh air and recreational resources,” said Councilwoman Selvena Brooks-Powers. “As a mom myself, I understand firsthand how important it is for us to have a safe space for our children to exert energy and make new friends.”

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