2009-07-29 / Features

Utopia Playground Reopens After $1 Million Renovation

(L. to r.): Assemblymember Mark Weprin, Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski, City Councilmember James Gennaro and (far r.) Community Board 8 Member Tamar Hirsch watch as Assemblymember Rory Lancman cuts the ribbon at Utopia Playground while students from P.S. 173 summer camp look on. (L. to r.): Assemblymember Mark Weprin, Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski, City Councilmember James Gennaro and (far r.) Community Board 8 Member Tamar Hirsch watch as Assemblymember Rory Lancman cuts the ribbon at Utopia Playground while students from P.S. 173 summer camp look on. City Councilmember James F. Gennaro (DFresh Meadows), Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski and Assemblymembers Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) and Mark Weprin (D-Little Neck) on July 24 cut the ribbon on Utopia Playground after a $1 million renovation. P.S. 173 Principal Molly Wang and students also attended, along with representatives from the Fresh Meadows Homeowners Civic Association, Community Board 8 and the Jamaica/Holliswood Little League.

"In cutting this ribbon we open yet another public playground for local residents to enjoy in our community," Gennaro said. "In total, I have allocated more than $1 million to this wonderful space and I'm proud to see the money was well spent."

Lancman was surprised at the transformation of the park that he used to ride his bike in as a kid. "The new Utopia Playground will be a tremendous asset to the many young families in my district. This project is proof of what happens when people from the community and the government come together to create something positive. Councilman Gennaro deserves our thanks for making it possible," he said.

Weprin said the new playground exuded a rich family atmosphere. "This beautiful playground is a wonderful enhancement of the Fresh Meadows community," he said. "It is great to see a place where children and families can exercise, spend time outdoors and interact with friends and neighbors."

The playground is located at the corner of 73rd Avenue and Utopia Parkway in Fresh Meadows, Queens. Many of the renovations were designed to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In October 2000, Tamar Hirsch, a member of Community Board 8 and president of the Utopia Estates Civic Association, appealed to Gennaro to install ADA compliant equipment at the Utopia Playground. "My friend's daughter could have used and enjoyed such equipment," she said. "Today that child is a physician at Yale University. I want to thank Dr. Cindy Miller and her mother, Ellen Miller, for being the inspiration in making today possible."

Utopia Playground originally opened on Jan. 1, 1942. In 1943, New York City gave the playground its current name. In 1996 Mayor Rudolph Giuliani funded a $44,000 renovation of the playground that added safety surfacing. Today, Utopia Playground serves the recreational needs of the Queens neighborhoods of Hillcrest, Fresh Meadows and surrounding areas.

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