By Sabina Mollot
Last Friday morning, in near-freezing weather following the second snowfall in a week, local community leaders and politicians cut the ribbon on the newly expanded Asser Levy Playground.
Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver joked that “It’s a pleasure to cut a ribbon on this warm and sunny day,” as the politicians on either side of him sat bundled up for the cold. He then went on to say the project had been successful in terms of being both “on time and on budget and that gets a double round of applause.”
New features along the two-block-long park that was formerly a street include a track, adult fitness equipment, a synthetic turf field, drinking fountains, lighting, trees, tables and benches.
The work was funded with allocations of $1,175,000 from Council Member Dan Garodnick, $500,000 from the UN Development Corporation, and $670,000 from the mayor.
While at the podium, Silver joked that Garodnick was so enamored with project, “he named his son Asher.”
In response Garodnick confided that he’d actually told his son that the playground had been named after him.
“There are no limits to my deception,” he quipped. “I told him it was a typo on the sign.” He added that since he also has another son, “We’ll have to see what we can do for Devin.”
While construction had been underway at the site, the Council member said he and both of his young sons would pop by each day from their apartment in Peter Cooper Village and ask the project supervisor for status updates. And, he added, the supervisor was very nice about it.
The playground work was tied to a land deal that would allow the United Nations to put a building on space occupied by Robert Moses Park.While naturally the plan to remove that park space has been met with some opposition from neighbors, Garodnick said Robert Moses Park is underutilized, as the space now occupied by Asser Levy Playground was when it was a street.
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney called the new playground part of a “green necklace” that will eventually “beautify the waterfront.”
Other elected officials at the event included Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and State Senators Brad Hoylman and Liz Krueger.
Krueger, while discussing the playground, mentioned that she’d recently had a conversation with a Republican colleague in Albany who griped that his district has so much park space, “we don’t know what to do with it.” In response, Krueger said she told him in her district, residents “would kill for an acre or two” and if he wanted to turn over his park budget, she’d be happy to accept it.
Community Board 6’s Chair Sandro Sherrod then stepped in to insist that, “We’re not that violent, but there are people up in arms.”
Following the ceremony, while no one in attendance accepted Mitchell’s invitation to “get healthy” by utilizing the park’s snow and ice-covered equipment, most accepted an offer to have coffee and cookies at the Asser Levy Recreation center facing the park.
Jeff Ourvan, president of the Peter Stuyvesant Little League, who was one of the neighborhood residents to attend, said he hoped the new play space would be made available to little leaguers for tee-ball in the spring. In response, Garodnick said that they would be able to, and that it had actually been designed with active play in mind.
“It was configured in a way for them to play tee-ball,” he said.
Garodnick also noted that while ribbon cuttings don’t usually take place in the colder months, he thought it was important to schedule this one during the winter to let the community know that the park was open, and actually has been already for several weeks.