Jamaica Bay and the Rockaways

The Daily Plant : Friday, May 3, 2002


If you’re a follower of the Chinese calendar, then you certainly know that this is the Year of the Horse. So, what is one of the first projects Parks has completed since the Chinese New Year? Why, it’s the reconstruction of the "Playground of the Horse," of course. Located in Ozone Park, Queens, the horse-themed Centreville Playground—as it is officially named—is now a "blue ribbon" play space thanks to a $1.4 million two-phase renovation funded by former Council Member Al Stabile.

On Monday, Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe took the reins in welcoming Council Member Joseph Addabbo, Jr., Community Board 10 Chair Betty Braton, Parkies and community members to the park after the completion of the second phase. This final phase, which cost $500,000, included the installation of new climbing equipment, benches and a brand-new seating plaza, as well as the restoration and color seal-coating of the basketball and handball courts.

"Centreville Playground has horse-racing in its blood," said Commissioner Benepe. In fact, since the 19th century, this neighborhood has been home to various racetracks, including Centreville—which was originally called Eclipse Course. The owners changed the track’s name to Centreville as a way to draw crowds during an economic crisis. Sadly, the name change failed in its goal. In 1899, the track was divided into building lots. "Unlike the doomed racetrack of the same name, Centreville Playground will soon see more crowds than ever," said Benepe. Addabbo echoed Benepe’s optimistic remarks and stressed the importance of beautiful parks in building strong communities.

In redesigning the park, Parks Architect Linda Lawton drew from the neighborhood’s rich racing history. Colorful horse silhouettes now race around the swings and other areas. In fact, one of the horse outlines depicts the famous racehorse Secretariat, which Ms. Lawton traced from a flash-photograph of the horse dashing across the finish line.

Among the ceremony’s VIP spectators were children from the New Town Playschool. "You will be our ‘Playground Inspectors’ today," Commissioner Benepe told the four- and five-year olds. "Your mission will be to play on this playground’s brand new equipment. At the Parks Department, the sound of kids laughing is the best indication that we are doing a good job."

When the speakers had finished, the tiny inspectors meticulously tested the park’s new tire swings, slides, and play equipment. Commissioner Benepe and Addabbo joined in the investigation and appeared to enjoy the two lane slides as much as the rest of the kids. During the festivities, it became clear to all that Centreville Playground will be a sure bet for fun during this Year of the Horse (and beyond).

Written by Eric Adolfsen


Steven Ward

SPMO Steven Ward is assigned to Rockaway Beach and has been there for the last fourteen years. Steve can best be described as a "professional" beach equipment operator. Large or small equipment, Steve can handle it all. He is responsible for the seven miles of beach and the playgrounds that encompass the beach. He takes pride in each and every piece of equipment as if it were his own.

It is this time of year in particular that Steven becomes jubilant, because it's beach season, and he can proudly show off his handy work in beach prep. Steve is just wonderful to work with. He takes the time to train others on large beach vehicles and makes sure that they can be operated safely. Rockaway Beach has never looked better thanks to Steven’s dedication and passion.


"There are three kinds of intelligence:
one kind understands things for itself,
the other appreciates what others can understand,
the third understands neither for itself nor through others.
This first kind is excellent, the second good, and the third kind useless."

Niccolò Machiavelli
(May 3, 1469–1527)

Directions to Jamaica Bay and the Rockaways

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