Bellerose Playground Re-Opened

The newly reconstructed Bellerose Playground re-opened on October 9, 2020. Councilman Barry Grodenchik had another on-site meeting with Parks and NYC School Construction Authority earlier this week to push for the re-opening. Midday today the portable toilet used by the contractor and black bags of debris were removed. This afternoon the 248th St. gates were still locked, but the 85th Ave. and 249th St. gates are now unchained and neighbors gradually entered as they saw youngsters enjoying our re-constructed playground. The contractor’s warning signs had been removed.

Councilman Grodenchik had hoped it would be opened for the community by this weekend, without any delays waiting for an opening ceremony or ribbon-cutting. Several weeks ago the playground was crowded with people who entered through the 248th St. gate (the padlock and chain had mysteriously disappeared). Two days later the gate was padlocked and the contractor had installed video surveillance warning signs. But Councilman Grodenchik has confirmed that today’s re-opening is official, even if unannounced and uncelebrated.

The Parks Dept. has problems with the water spray feature designed by the School Construction Authority, including drainage and cracks in the concrete. Hopefully that will be fixed by Memorial Day. The bathrooms were open today, but the men’s toilet was not working. Since the comfort station is unheated, the water inside, as well as the outdoor water fountains, are turned off as they are in most parks starting around Columbus Day. Parks starts turning them on again after St. Patrick’s Day.

We had asked Parks to install the halyards and flags on the flagpole before the asphalting was completed and the cyclone fencing section removed for construction equipment passage was re-installed. The contractor painted the flagpole then. But Parks is trying to figure out how to fly the flag because they can’t get a bucket truck in there now to install one.

After years of prodding by BCCA we finally have our reconstructed playground. We are grateful to then Councilman Mark Weprin for his initial financial support. Councilman Grodenchik picked up the ball and ran with it. With his financial help and the constant prodding by him and his staff over the years he got this project to the finish line this week. And he obtained millions of dollars in financial support from then Boro President Melinda Katz, without which the School Construction Authority and Parks would never have undertaken the project. And thanks to all our Bellerose residents who have fought for years for this improvement which benefits our community and our P.S.133 students.

Bellerose Playground Partial Timeline

(Relating to Multi-purpose Play Area [schoolyard] and playground; does not include adjacent Reading Garden which had been funded by then Senator Avella but will not be completed until 2022/2023)

2008. BCCA and CB13Q advocate for overhaul of Bellerose Playground.

2008 March Queens Parks Commissioner tells CB13 that Park House at Bellerose Playground has been closed for 15 years and she needs $150,000 to re-open it. (Comfort station eventually re-opened after electrical and plumbing work and asbestos removal).

2014. Friends of Bellerose Playground meet at P.S.133. to consider improvements needed for Playground.

2014. Councilman Mark Weprin includes $500,000 in NYC budget to renovate playground. (NYC Parks does not have funding in its budget for capital projects such as this. Parks relies on funding allocated by elected officials.)

2014 2/10 NYC School Construction Authority holds “Reso A Scope Phase” kick-off meeting at P.S.133. (Reso A refers to the NYC City Council Resolution A funding allocation obtained by Councilman Mark Weprin. Bellerose Playground is a joint-operated playground (JOP) under jurisdiction of NYC Board of Ed and NYC Dept. of Parks and Recreation. Initial and subsequent funding was allocated to Board of Ed, giving the School Construction Authority the money for design and construction. Parks was involved, especially in review of the SCA design, making recommendations including those changes required due to federal safety guidelines.)

2014 11/9 NYC School Construction Authority holds “Reso A Design Phase” meeting at P.S.133.

2015 4/23 SCA notifies P.S.133 Principal that the project “has been referred to the legislator due to the need for additional funding”.

2015 8/5 SCA and Councilman Weprin’s office confirm that Weprin has allocated another $310,000 for the Playground.

2015 Nov. Councilman Weprin does another on-site visit (after Bellerose Library re-opening celebration). Parks Dept. had told him that core samples taken at Playground indicate a drainage problem requiring an additional $800,000 in funding. Weprin will seek additional funding.

2016 05/23 Boro Pres. Katz announces at CB13 meeting that she is allocating an unspecified amount of money from her budget for the Playground.

2016 11/10 Funding Announcement at Playground by Councilman Grodenchik, Boro Pres. Melinda Katz.

2016 11/30 Visioning meeting for community input held by SCA at P.S.133 library to discuss and recommend design and play equipment.

2017 Nov. Questioned at a Town Hall meeting (at Van Buren High School), Mayor DiBlasio and his Parks staff had no explanation for delays in Bellerose Playground project.

2018 1/11 Design Unveiling for community at P.S.133.

2018 10/19 Bellerose Playground Groundbreaking with Boro Pres. Katz, Councilman Grodenchik, Principal Nicole Colon, students, BCCA reps, community, etc. (Construction had just started, with work permitted only after 4PM on school days. Completion date, originally expected to be 12 months, was extended to December, 2019.)

2019 Construction continues at a slow pace, with periods of inactivity by the contractor from New Jersey who was awarded the contract. BCCA pushes to get the job done.

2020. BCCA continues to push for completion which is overdue. Covid 19 becomes an excuse, even after construction was again allowed. Contractor rep claimed availability but no permission from SCA to complete the job, even though there was little to be done and this was a fully funded project.

2020 09/16 SCA and Parks do joint inspection of Playground (attended by several BCCA Board members). Parks insists that several issues, including drainage issues and concrete cracks in spray feature, must be addressed before final approval. Spray issues might be corrected in spring.

2020 9/22 Councilman Grodenchik and BCCA Board members inspect Playground.

2020 10/6 Councilman Grodenchik, pushing for swift opening of Playground, got SCA and Parks back to Playground for on-site meeting and inspection.
2020 10/6 Councilman Grodenchik advises us Playground may be opened by weekend (10/9).

2020 10/8 Midday—the contractor’s portable toilet and black plastic bags of debris were removed from Playground. Contractor’s construction warning signs were removed from fences.
Afternoon— contractor gone, 85th Ave. and 249th Street gates are unlocked (but not 248th St.), and children can be seen enjoying the Playground.
Councilman Grodenchik confirms that Playground is officially re-opened!!! (But still no U.S. flag flying.)