The Pearly Gates

Pearly Gates Playground Re-opens As Model Of 21St Century Sustainable Design

Saturday, September 25, 2010
No. 82

Commissioner Benepe today joined City Council Member James Vacca, Assembly Member Michael Benedetto, Representative to the Bronx Borough President Wilhelm Ronda, members of Community Board 10 and the Westchester Square / Zurega Improvement District, and neighborhood children to cut the ribbon on nearly $2 million in improvements to Pearly Gates Playground. The park is located at St. Peters and Tratman Avenues in the Bronx.

“We are pleased to finish the renovation of Pearly Gates Playground, bringing more worthiness to its name,” said Commissioner Benepe. “The new park is fun, safe and eco-friendly for the community, with improved ADA access, double the number of swings and triple the number of slides as the old park, increased greenspace, a spray shower and a sustainable rain garden that absorbs water during heavy rainstorms and prevents flooding.”

“Pearly Gates Park serves one of the most vibrant and growing communities in my district, and I was thrilled to secure $900,000 to fund this major renovation,” said Council Member Vacca. “The new Pearly Gates is more accessible, more attractive, safer, and most importantly more fun as a result of this project. I can’t wait to see how local children and families react to this great new public space.”

The $1.9 million project to renovate the park’s playground and comfort station was funded by $900,000 allocated by Council Member James Vacca, $524,000 allocated by Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and $500,000 allocated by Council Member Annabel Palma. Reconstruction of the comfort station is estimated to begin next year.

The playground features new play-inspiring equipment for 5-12 year olds such as spinning units, a balance beam and a spray shower. New amenities include accessible entrances with entry gates; passive seating areas; expanded green spaces with ornamental interest; new pavement; accessible drinking fountains; new site furniture; improved drainage and perimeter fencing. The details for the new steel fence were inspired by the historical fence at the nearby St. Peter’s Church Cemetery. There is ADA-access for the park’s entrance and play structures.

The playground first opened in 1952 under the joint operation of Parks and the Board of Education, and featured a wading pool, slides and see-saws. The park was originally called the Westchester Playground until 1998, when Parks Commissioner Henry Stern renamed the site The Pearly Gates.

The current renovation upgraded the existing park with a variety of 21st century sustainable design elements. A rain garden was installed around the playground to capture stormwater runoff from the park’s asphalt pavement surfaces. Rain gardens protect the environment by re-absorbing water into planting beds, rather than overflowing in the sewage system and spilling into the city’s waterways. Overall, the renovation multiplied the existing greenspace in the park five-fold to 25% of the park property. Additional eco-friendly materials used in the park include: local South Bay Quartzite from Champlain, NY for the gates, pavement, and flagpole base; recycled asphalt content in all asphalt pavement; 90% recycled material in the safety surfacing; use of mixed-color recycled glass as fill base for pavements and recycled plastic lumber for the bench slats. The children’s spray shower is low-flow and operates on a timer to conserve water.

Parks’ in-house Capital team, which designed the playground and managed the construction project, included Project Manager/Designer Stephen J. Koren, RLA, LEED AP; Assistant Designers Nette Compton & Patricia Clark, RLA; Design Supervisor Jim Mituzas, RLA; Civil Engineer Raymond Palmares, PE; Resident Engineer Malak Tenisa; Bronx Construction Supervisor Fred Hammerling. The contractor was Vernon Hills Contracting of Mt. Vernon, NY.

The name for the Pearly Gates Playground is derived from Christian tradition as the entrance through which souls travel to reach their god after death. The gates of heaven are said to be guarded by Saint Peter, one of the founders of the Christian Church. The playground is named the Pearly Gates, because of its location on St. Peter’s Avenue.

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