The Morris Heights community could soon have a brand new Walton Park.
On Thursday, May 10, the New York City Parks Department, Partnerships for Parks, along with the students from P.S. 279 and local leaders, officially broke ground on the project.
“When it’s finished, I’m going to go on the swings,” said 8-year-old Lesly Cruz.
Prior to its renovation, the park had been forgotten for nearly 20 years, according to Parks.
Walton Park is one of 17 parks in the borough listed for renovation as part of the Community Parks Initiative.
“This park is going to be more fun when we’re finished,” said Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver, as he addressed some of the grade school children present.
The old Walton Park used to have a basketball court, which will be replaced with a new half court.
“This was our favorite park, so we’re excited and I can’t wait to play more basketball,” said 13-year-old, Staisy Barrera.
Other new features will include a new playground, sprinkler system and ADA accessible entrances.
Commissioner Silver even announced that Parks would remove the existing fences from around the individual trees in the park.
One of the biggest challenges of the process has been trying to maintain the existing tree structures and ensuring proper drainage and rain gardens are set up to prevent ponding in the new park, according to Brendan Kelly, one of the engineers working on the project.
Despite this, the project could be completed as early as the end of 2018, according to Silver.
Initially, the park was expected to be completed by February 2019.
The date advancement prediction was made in part because the renovation project, as of that Thursday afternoon, was about 50 percent complete.
Its new sprinkler system structure, mostly constructed and painted, even shone in brilliant shades of blue, a sign of promise to the kids who wanted nothing more than for the park to be ready sooner, rather than later.
As the plans were unveiled to the children, who bounced a little more in anticipation of the finished product, more students from the neighborhood ran to the park as schools let out for the day, pulling parents and siblings to the construction site begging to also listen in.
“This is your park, so if you see somebody litering, tap them and point them to the trash bin,” said Commissioner Silver to the students.
At the end, they even took the time to take a pledge to always protect the park, though many of them, already knew it would be in good hands anyway.
“I’m pretty sure our school’s student council already plans to help clean it when it’s finished,” said 13-year-old Nathalie Rodriguez. P.S. 279 sits across the street from the park.
The renovations being made to the park cost about $1.8 million and were funded by the Mayor’s office and Councilman Fernando Cabrera.
“Our neighbors are going to be jealous because we’re going to have the best of the very best park,” said Councilman Cabrera, who announced his goal to have all the park projects in the district completed within the next three years.