Chelsea Park

The Daily Plant : Friday, December 5, 2003


Residents who border Thomas Jefferson Park in East Harlem used to refer to the park as a dustbowl. They complained that kids playing sports on the dusty field at the park’s northern end created large amounts of dirt that would cloud the air and enter their windows. At the time, however, the City could do little to solve the problem. Without the funds for a major capital improvement, the City first tried to prevent soccer-playing by fencing off the field. After repeated breaches by young athletes through the fence, boulders were brought in to make the field unusable for soccer.

"It was a dream of mine as Manhattan Borough Commissioner to reopen this field to the community," said Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe. "One of the best ways the City can help fight obesity is by creating beautiful parks and facilities that communities will be inspired to use." Without capital funding, however, reopening the field was impossible.

Thanks to the generous allocation of $1,120,000 from City Council Member Phillip Reed, and an additional $300,000 allocated by Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields, Parks & Recreation removed the boulders and constructed a brand-new artificial turf field and track in their place. Yesterday, Council Member Phillip Reed, Community Board 11 Chair David E. Givens, Manhattan Borough President Office representative Carlos Rodriguez, MetroStars Forward John Wolyniec, City Parks Foundation Executive Director David Rivel and Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe joined young local athletes, community leaders, and residents to celebrate the completion of the new facilities. The new space features a blue rubber track, a modern artificial turf soccer field, reconstructed iron picket fencing and landscaped areas, a newly-installed drainage and water system, and new gates.

"We have to protect our parks," said Council Member Reed. Looking around, he said "we see that we have a very good thing." Reed, who himself played soccer growing up, was hopeful that the new field would create an influx of new children interested in soccer and other field sports.

Also during the festivities, MetroStars forward John Wolyniec gave away autographed soccer balls and playing cards to young soccer hopefuls in attendance, including students and athletes from the Technical Institute of Multicultural Education (P.S. 117), the Jacques Cartier School, the Club Deportivo El Barrio, and the Choir Academy.

"I grew up in Staten Island and played on a lot of Parks & Recreation fields," said Wolyniec. "I would have loved to play on a field like this when I was growing up."

Work on the project began in January 2003. The project was designed by Parks & Recreation landscape architects Shirley Kindler-Penzi and Andrew Penzi and work was overseen by Ahamad Baksh and Vincent Macluso. Construction was performed by D. Gangi Contracting Corporation.

By the end of next year, five new artificial turf fields will have been completed in Harlem. Artificial turf fields, once considered uncomfortable and unsightly, are now being used increasingly in parks thanks to technological advances made in the material. The first artificial turf field used by Parks & Recreation was a carpet-style field in Manhattan’s Chelsea Park; the second was in Riverside Park. Recent parks to receive similar artificial turf fields include the Dyker Beach Park in Brooklyn and East River Park in Manhattan.

Now, for the first time, children playing on this park’s new brand artificial turf field will be able to enjoy a game of soccer without creating the huge amount of dust that once disturbed neighboring residents. City Parks Foundation, in its ongoing role of creating quality programs in New York City parks, will be among those to utilize the new track at Thomas Jefferson Park for CityParks Track & Field program. This free instructional program for young New Yorkers, now in its third year, will benefit from ING's new ING Run for Something Better, which will support the program.


"Nothing takes the taste out of peanut butter quite like unrequited love."

Charlie Brown

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