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Madison Square Park

The Daily Plant : Friday, April 5, 2002

A MOUSE AND A MARTYR MEET IN MANHATTAN


It was out with the old and in with the new (and colorful) at St. Vartan Park in Manhattan. On Tuesday, Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe joined Council Member Eva Moskowitz, President of Friends of St. Vartan Park Roxie Cherishian, Community Board 6 District Manager Toni Carlina, Borough Commissioner William Castro, as well as dozens of parents and children to celebrate the reopening of the park’s playground after its $582,000 reconstruction.

At the start of the event, Stuart Little, from Columbia Pictures’ Stuart Little 2, made a surprise celebrity guest appearance. The sporty mouse helped children test out the park’s new brightly-colored play equipment, which included spinning poles, tire swings, and mini-bridges designed to wobble.

St. Vartan Park is named for nearby St. Vartan Cathedral of the Armenian Orthodox Church in America at the corner of 35th Street and 2nd Avenue, in Manhattan. The Cathedral was built to resemble the Cathedral of Holy Etchmiadzin—the world's first cruciform church—built in the 4th century and still standing in Armenia today. Vartan was an Armenian who lived during the 5th century and died as a martyr during the Battle of Avarayr in 451 A.D.

During his remarks, Commissioner Benepe thanked Parks Landscape Architect Bernadette Grullon for her creativity in designing the new playground. In addition to play equipment, Grullon’s plans called for the installation of new benches, fences, and a multi-colored sculpture of an eagle and lion that symbolizes the park’s Armenian identity. "On Armenia’s coat of arms, the lion and eagle represent wisdom, pride, patience, and nobility," said Commissioner Benepe. He likened the park’s "Armenian" beasts to the two marble lions—named Patience and Fortitude—that guard the main branch of the New York Public Library.

Benepe also welcomed Council Member Eva Moskowitz to the podium. Moskowitz spoke about the importance of parks in her own life—both as a young girl growing up in the city and now, as a mother caring for her three-year-old child. Whether we are in good economic times or bad, she explained, we must always take care of our parks. She also commended the Parks Department for its efficiency and accessibility.

Like the park’s daffodils, Japanese barberry, firethorn, baltic ivy, and forsythia, St. Vartan Park has bloomed into a great neighborhood playground. In addition to its latest improvements, the park boasts a great comfort station, as well as striking views of the Empire State Building, St. Vartan Cathedral, and the top of the Chrysler Building in midtown Manhattan.

By Eric Adolfsen

"PLANT PROFILE"

Rajinder Garcha

There is one employee at Parks who keeps women's issues at the forefront of the agency. Rajinder Garcha, Deputy Director of Personnel, not only helps run Parks' complicated personnel operation, but also serves as Parks representative for the Women's Advisors of New York City. As an advisor, Rajinder has played a primary role in promoting Women's History Month at Parks, supporting the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk, and coordinating the Take Our Children To Work Day. She has also created several photo collages of women at Parks that have been displayed in the Arsenal Gallery.

Rajinder started her career at Parks in June 1989 as an analyst with OMP. In addition to analyzing parks inspection data, she worked on the Mayor's Management Report. She moved to Personnel in 1995. In her role as Parks' Language Services Coordinator, you can count on Rajinder to help out if you need something translated into a foreign language. Rajinder is an active member of the Sikh community and helps to organize the Sikh Day Parade Gathering at Madison Square Park every April. She is also a member of the School Leadership Team at P.S. 201 Q, where her three children attend school.

By David Terhune

QUOTATION FOR THE DAY

It can be done!

Secretary of State Colin Powell

(b. April 5, 1937)

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