If all goes according to plan, the Lower East Side will have two revitalized parks by next fall. On Friday, Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver attended a groundbreaking ceremony to kick off reconstruction of Sol Lain Playground and Henry M. Jackson Playground. They are the first projects happening in Manhattan as part of the mayor’s $285 million Community Parks Initiative.
The two neglected play areas are located a block apart on Henry Street. They’ve gone untouched for at least two decades. At Sol Lain, the $3.6 million rehabilitation will include separate play areas for different age groups, swings, a spray shower, a high school-sized basketball court, an area for flag football and an educational garden for the local public school, which will come complete with a small cherry orchard.
At Henry M. Jackson Playground, nearly $2 million will be spent on an intermediate-sized basketball court, two junior courts with new hoops and backstops, a mini-running track, a volleyball area, plus benches and picnic tables.
On hand for the ceremony last week was Marilou Garcia. Her brother, Eddie Garcia, was the heart and soul of this playground. For many years, until his death in 2010, Garcia ran the Sol Lain Flag Football League and dedicated much of his life to keeping LES kids engaged through youth sports. The field was named in his memory several years ago.
There’s another local connection around the revitalization at Sol Lain Playground. The landscape architect who designed the new park, Catherine Bridges, lives right across the street in the Seward Park Co-op. She’ll be able to look out her window and keep tabs on the construction.
In addition to Garcia and Bridges, the groundbreaking was attended by Council member Rosie Mendez, Assemblywoman Alice Cancel, P.S. 134 principal Daniel Kim and Trever Holland, chair of Community Board 3’s parks committee.
More Lower East Side park improvement projects are on the way. A Parks Department spokesperson tells us that a long-awaited reconstruction of Luther Gulick Park will happen in two phases. The renovation of a comfort station is expected to begin this fall. Landscape renovations are scheduled to start in the fall of 2017.
Seward Park, a winner of the city’s Parks Without Borders Competition, will be receiving millions of dollars in improvements. No groundbreaking date is set for that project as of yet. It’s still in the planning/design phases.