One of the terms that we see and use quite often around here is “community.” We wondered about the roots of the word, so we learned this week that community comes from the Latin “communis,” meaning “common, public, shared by all or many.”

What inspired this brief foray into etymology? Pride in our community and the partners that comprise it. Naturally.

We’ve witnessed the definition of community in recent weeks at Frank M. Charles Memorial Park. The entrance, central pathway, and handball court at the beloved Howard Beach green space just got a much-needed facelift, thanks to funding secured by City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) and the work of partners, including dozens of volunteers, the Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy, the Charles Park Conservation Society, Wildcat, and National Park Service.

“It is important that we continue to invest in our public parks, which play such a vital role in our communities—especially for our youth,” Ulrich said.

Earlier this year, Ulrich allocated $45,000 for a number of improvements to the federal park. Work began this summer with the removal of 15,000 square-feet of turf along its central pathway and, with the help of volunteers, was transformed into a living landscape with 9,000 new plantings complete with an array of perennials. Two patios were installed near the entrance of the park to allow better access to pollinator gardens. JBRPC also installed new basketball nets at the basketball court and the popular handball court wall was rehabilitated and painted in partnership with Wildcat. This followed investment last year by the NPS to rehabilitate the tennis courts and basketball courts.

“With funding from Council Member Ulrich, and assistance from volunteers and partners, the central pathway and entrance at Frank M. Charles Memorial Park has been completely transformed. This spring, over 9,000 plants will come to life, offering multiple seasons of interest,” said Alex Zablocki, executive director, Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy. “This public-private partnership quickly resulted in positive changes for the park, its users, and the Howard Beach community. The popular basketball and handball court have been improved, and early next year, the conservancy will complete this multi-phase project by reimagining the horseshoe court.”

After many years of documenting the tragedy that is a community rec space in constant disrepair—“It’s an absolute disgrace the way it is now,” is how one community member described the park to The Forum a couple of years ago—it’s exciting to have a front-row seat to its transformation. After thousands of words chronicling the myriad ways that ignorant neighbors used the park as a personal garbage can, the before-and-after images say it all.

So if you’re looking for the meaning of community, just head on down to 165th Avenue and 96th Street.


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