Hawkins Park renovated, rededicated

The dolphin has kept its home in Hawkins Park.

After a major $250,000 renovation, the Parks Department rededicated City Island’s Hawkins Park and paid tribute to the World War I veteran it is named for on Monday, August 30. Members of the community were pleased to learn that a popular dolphin statue, a plaything for children in the park for 35 years, will remain where it stood before the construction.

A war memorial in the park lists the names of 104 City Islanders who fought in “the Great War.”

Parks commissioner Adrian Benepe joined Assemblyman Michael Benedetto, Councilman Jimmy Vacca, former Councilwoman Madeline Provenzano, Bronx Parks commissioner Hector Aponte, director of planning and development for Borough President Diaz, Wilhelm Ronda, Community Board 10 parks committee chairwoman Virginia Gallagher, and the Garden Club of City Island to celebrate the renovation of the park.

“Thanks to $250,000 in funding from Councilman Jimmy Vacca, Hawkins Park has received a renovation befitting a park named for one of New York’s greatest war heros, City Island native Leonard Hawkins,” Benepe said. “New park features include safety services, pavement, a seating area, landscaping, and ADA accessible amenities. Opening just in time for mild fall temperatures, this new and improved green space will delight City Island residents all year long.”

The money for the renovation was originally set aside in 2005 by then Councilwoman Provenzano, and Councilman Vacca revived the renovation effort by getting approval to complete the project, which took over a year.

The renovation project included new benches, plantings, trees, paving, fencing, utilities, an ADA-accessible water fountain, and new a safety surface around the park’s distinctive dolphin structure.

Community residents launched a major grassroots campaign in April 2009 to save the dolphin after it became known it would be moved elsewhere on the island. Despite being a passive park, children have enjoyed playing on the dolphin structure for generations.

“I am so glad that they were able to keep the dolphin statue and the memorial in the same places that they were before,” said City Island Chamber of Commerce president Gerard “Skip” Giacco. “I think that it is fitting to have the kids playing in front of the memorial that honors World War I veterans because that kind of freedom is what these men were fighting for.”

City Island Garden Club members, who asked Vacca to look into funding a renovation of the park three years ago, said that they were pleased that the Parks Department took the club’s considerations into account. The City Island Garden Club has been part of the Federated Garden Clubs network since 1961.

“We were diligent and persistent in terms of making sure the right types of species were planted,” said club vice president Barbara Harrison. “We made recommendations regarding safety and esthetic appeal.”

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