Half-Nelson Playground dedicated amid fanfare

Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe and community members cut the ribbon on a $1.7 million renovation of Half-Nelson Playground, which boasts new play equipment, optical illusion games, a basketball court, landscaping, and seating area. Photo by Patrick Rocchio

The Half-Nelson Playground, the product of years of work by community advocates, opened with a ribbon cutting on Wednesday, June 17.

The playground is part of a $1.7 million upgrade that includes a completely new play area, spray shower, basketball court, fencing, sitting area with benches, optical illusion play equipment and landscaping on Nelson Avenue between Featherbed Lane and West 174th Street.

Councilwoman Helen Diane Foster provided the funds for the restoration, with an additional $286,000 in mayoral funds. The ceremony included a performance by the P.S. 204 chorus and Lydia Petrides.

“For years, the Half-Nelson Park Association has been fighting to have this park approved,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe at the dedication.

Benepe added: “With new play equipment, a basketball court, seating areas, and beautiful landscaping, Half-Nelson Playground now offers kids of all ages in the community a safe and fun place to play. We are grateful to Mayor Bloomberg and Council Member Helen Diane Foster for allocating funding to make this capital project possible.”

The drainage system at the park was also reconstructed and a new accessible drinking fountain was installed. Stonewall terraces were cut into the existing hillside to prevent erosion and beautify the natural grassy slope, while landscaping and shrubs complete the renovation.

The grassroots force behind the creation of the new play space was Community Board 5 Parks and Recreation Committee chairwoman Kathryn Speller, who has been fighting since 1999 for the creation of the Half-Nelson Playground.

“It is a dream realized,” Speller said. “It started out as just a basketball court for the older kids, and we wanted young children to have a place to play. Before, the young children ended up playing on the basketball court. Today, the little ones have a place to play.”

The Reverend Jim Fairbanks, representing Councilwoman Foster at the dedication, praised Spellers work in gathering grassroots support in the community for the creation of the youth playground.

CB 5 district manager Xavier Rodriquez urged the community to keep the park in good condition at the dedication.

“We got to keep it safe,” Rodriquez said. “We got to keep it clean so our kids can enjoy it.”

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