In Ozone Park, A Haven for Skaters

In Ozone Park, A Haven for Skaters

A skater spends time in the newly opened skate park at the London Planetree Playground in Ozone Park on Sunday. Anna Gustafson/The Forum Newsgroup

A skater spends time in the newly opened skate park at the London Planetree Playground in Ozone Park on Sunday. Anna Gustafson/The Forum Newsgroup

Fixing his eyes on the expanse of cement ahead, Joshua Ortiz planted his feet on his skateboard and sailed over stairs in a move that inspired flinches from a group of nearby adults – but garnered him approving nods from the teenagers who gathered to celebrate the opening of Queens’ newest skate park last Sunday.

With arms outstretched and his board tilted towards the sky, Ortiz, 15, of Ozone Park, navigated wind and time and cement to land perfectly and deftly maneuver around the younger children that gathered at the peripheries of the 10,000 square foot skate park in the London Planetree Playground at Atlantic Avenue and 89th Street.

“It’s good to have this place – it’s way better than it was and you barely get any skate parks in New York,” Ortiz said of the Ozone Park site, part of $1.72 million in improvements recently completed at the London Planetree Playground. “Before, there was nothing to do here – and having this here keeps us skaters off the street.”

Ortiz was one of dozens of skaters who joined area politicians, city officials and civic leaders to cut the ribbon on the park last Sunday. The $1.72 million project also includes new basketball courts and adult fitness equipment.

“This has been the dream of people living in Ozone Park and Woodhaven for so long,” said Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park), who allocated $723,000 for the project.

“This was a barren slab of concrete,” Ulrich continued. “…We wanted to build a state of the art skate park. We wanted to add green space where there was no green space.”

State Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven) and Queens Deputy Borough President Barry Grodenchik confessed that while they’ve never hopped on a skate board, they’re happy neighborhood children, teens, and even the adventurous adult now have a designated place to go.

Anna Gustafson/The Forum Newsgroup

Anna Gustafson/The Forum Newsgroup

“This is a great design,” Miller said of the park was Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski noted has two-, three- and five-stair sections, grind rails, a stamped-brick quarter pipe and a series of banks and slopes.

Calling the new space “magnificent,” Grodenchik noted it takes up a full city block.

“You’ll meet people and make lifetime friends here,” Community Board 9 Chairman James Coccovillo told the skaters.

Queens Borough President Helen Marshall allocated $1 million for the park, which also boasts a walking path, sitting areas, a plaza with rain gardens and tree plantings throughout the site. Lewandowski emphasized that the park’s design includes sustainable elements, including fewer paved surfaces and more planted ones – which can better absorb storm water. The park is also surrounded by an installation of recycled granite-block paving stones and sand that will funnel water into nearby rain gardens.

“Just days after the official start of summer, London Planetree Park is ready for business with improvements that will help a new generation enjoy recreational and relaxing activities in one of our city’s great urban oases,” Marshall said.

Area residents also said the park will draw skaters away from parking lots, where they would often go before the London Planetree spot opened.

“I’m thrilled the kids have a place to skate instead of at the Pathmark,” said Jacqueline Debicki, who has owned her home near the park since 1993. “Now they have a space space to go. It’s going to be a nice addition to the neighborhood.”

Thomas Ruggiano, 14, of Ozone Park said he plans on going to the park on a daily basis this summer.

“I really like it,” Ruggiano said. “It looks way different now, way nicer.”

By Anna Gustafson


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