In a recent survey of 45 large city parks, including 17 in Queens, Middle Village’s 56-acre Juniper Valley Park scored best in terms of its overall level of maintenance.
The park scored 98 out of 100 for an A+ on the 2012 Report Card for Large Parks by the nonprofit New Yorkers for Parks, a city parks advocacy group. In 2011, the first year of the group’s annual survey, Juniper scored a 93, second best in the city.
The report card, which measures overall maintenance conditions, examines park features such as athletic fields, bathrooms, drinking fountains, courts, trees, seating areas and bodies of water.
“It was very satisfying and it just reinforces what we knew all along—it’s a great park,” said Bob Holden, president of the
Juniper Valley Civic Association, reacting to the news of the park’s top score.
Holden added that the challenge is really to “keep the park in good shape.” The Juniper Valley Civic Association and all its numerous volunteers work very hard to maintain the park, Holden said.
“We were always near the top [of the rankings], I just think the score is well-deserved.”
In addition, Holden noted that the civic association is “very involved” in the upkeep of the park.
“We maintain the three ball fields, we cut the grass and we even buy flowers,” he said, crediting the park’s many involved volunteers for keeping things together.
In fact, the park received perfect scores of 100 for its athletic fields, playgrounds, pathways, sitting areas and trees.
The report noted that Juniper’s top score was, in part, due to its “well-tended lawns and landscaped areas, evenly graded ball fields, and bocce courts so clean that one park visitor joked he would eat off them.”
“It really scored amazingly high on almost every feature,” said Holly Leicht, executive director of New Yorkers for Parks, in describing Juniper’s top ranking. “The thing that’s unusual is that all the features are top-notch,” she said. “It was noteworthy that they [Juniper Valley Park] were able to maintain everything across the board.”
Leicht also pointed out that Juniper’s “tremendous amount of volunteer stewardship” both the physical work and the advocacy on behalf of the park helped to form the basis of a “sophisticated and multi-based approach” to ensure that the needs of the park are paramount.
But, for the park which began life as a 100-acre swamp and then farm during the 18th Century before being acquired by notorious Jewish gangster Arnold Rothstein in the 1920s, things didn’t always go smoothly.
Historical records show the park was purchased by the city in 1931 and finally opened as a city park in 1941.
Holden, along with some longtime residents recalled that the park suffered from neglect and high levels of criminal activity in the 1960s but was rescued once again in the early 1990s as the civic association and former Middle Village council member Tom Ognibene helped secure funding for new fields and tracks.
The report noted that last May, a visitor to Juniper praised the park’s various sports courts.
“We came because of the reputation. They have bocce ball tournaments here every year,” said the visitor. “It’s one of the best parks for bocce ball.”
And, on the civic association’s Facebook page, news of the park’s stellar showing was greeted by locals with pride.
Local resident Joe La Rosa wrote on Facebook, “Something we all should be PROUD OF!!!!” referring to Holden’s post about the park.
Lee Rottenberg added, “NUMBER 1 IN ALL OF NEW YORK CITY!!!!!!!!!”
By Alan Krawitz