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Queens Chronicle

London Planetree skate park opens

Renovated space includes workout area and new basketball courts

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Posted: Thursday, June 27, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 12:56 pm, Wed Jul 3, 2013.

Along Atlantic Avenue, straddling the border between Ozone Park and Woodhaven, young boys on skateboards jump over brick embankments and slide down stair railings on a quiet Sunday morning.

But don’t worry, they're not bothering anyone. In fact, they are allowed to do it here.

Elected officials, including Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) and Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven) and other community leaders, such as Community Board 9 Chairman Jim Cocovillo and CB 9's Parks Committee Chairman J. Richard Smith joined Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski to cut the ribbon at the renovated London Planetree Park at Atlantic Avenue and 89th Street on Sunday. They were joined by over a dozen young skateboarders who immediately took to the park’s crown jewel — it's new, state-of-the-art skateboarding facility.

Before the $1.6 million renovation, London Planetree Park consisted of a playground, several basketball and handball courts and a giant asphalt meadow utilized as a baseball field — at least when the weather was not too hot to play on it.

In the meantime, two blocks to the east, skateboarders worked on their skills in the parking lot of the Pathmark shopping center, creating, at best, an annoyance to shopping there, and at worst, a dangerous situation between skateboarders and drivers.

But thanks to $1 million allocated by Borough President Helen Marshall and another allocation of $600,000 from Ulrich, skateboarders will have a new, dedicated space to skate on where the asphalt slab once stood, making use of what many saw as wasted land in a community that needs to make use of every last bit of space.

"Every inch of this place will be utilized," Ulrich said at the park's grand opening on Sunday, noting the new reconstructed basketball courts, new bathrooms and workout areas. "It wouldn't have happened without the taxpayers of the city of New York, the City Council and of course, my friend, Borough President Helen Marshall."

The park now has two new reconstructed basketball courts, a workout area with lifting bars and other exercise equipment and a walking track which circumnavigates the skating area at the center of the park. New green space, including new trees and sandy areas that will soak up rain water to irrigate plants, was also included in the project.

Lewandowski said the skate park was deisgned in collaboration with a company called California Skate Design Group, which has worked with the Parks Department on other skate parks, including at least two others in Queens; in Flushing Meadows Corona Park and in Far Rockaway.

"These are really great elements," she said. "They're less than 3 feet high, which allows us to keep this as a neighborhood park so that kids can skate and recreate as the park is open."

The park’s opening comes six months earlier than anticipated. The project was scheduled to take 18 months when the Parks Department broke ground on it last July, but instead took less than a year.

While the focus of the new London Planetree Park is it's skating facility, Ulrich said the renovated park is a win for the entire community.

"This is a great investment in the community and the people of Ozone Park and Woodhaven, I know, are especially appreciative," he said.

Area skateboarders would often travel to a skating facility at Beach 91st Street and Shore Front Parkway in Rockaway Park, but that park was destroyed in Hurricane Sandy last year.

Lewandowski said the city was in the early stages of rebuilding that park, but no official plans are in place as of yet.

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