On September 25, 2019, NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP, joined New York City Council Member Diana Ayala, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Community Board 1 Parks Chair Hakiem Yahmadi, New Yorkers for Parks Executive Director Lynn B. Kelly, students and staff from the Heketi Community Charter School, and members of the community to cut the ribbon on the renovated St. Mary’s Playground West.
“St. Mary’s Playground West, one of Bronx’s first playgrounds, was in desperate need of renovation and I am extremely proud to unveil its new amenities,” said Commissioner Silver. “This project has completely transformed the outdated playground, creating in its place an improved, high quality recreation space for the entire community.”
“Parks and playgrounds in the South Bronx are going through a profound transformation and finally receiving the improvements they need. I am proud to join the Parks Department in unveiling the improved St. Mary’s Playground West, equipped with new basketball courts, fitness equipment, spray showers, and more,” said Council Member Diana Ayala. “I thank Commissioner Silver, Borough Commissioner Rodriguez-Rosa, and the rest of the Parks Department for working to transform this public space.”
“I am proud to have provided $438,000 in funds to help with the renovation of St. Mary’s Playground West,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. “I have always been a big proponent of renovating park space for our children to play and have fun, in a safe environment that allows for them to get exercise like we used to do when we were kids. Improving our playgrounds is a priority, considering that the more playground space we can build up, the easier it becomes for kids to stay active throughout their childhood and into their adult years. I want to thank New York City Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, New York City Council Member Diana Ayala and Bronx Community Board #1 for getting behind this renovation project.”
The upgraded playground now includes new play equipment and swings for children; renovated spray showers and pavements with colorful play patterns; sports lighting and restored basketball courts; and new adult fitness equipment. The playground’s new passive amenities include renovated seating areas and picnic tables, as well as updated fencing and curbs. Tree pits have also been expanded, and new plantings have been added to increase permeability and add more greenery to the playground.
This $4 million project was funded by a $494,000 allocation from Mayor Bill de Blasio, $3 million from Council Member Diana Ayala, and $438,000 from Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.
St. Mary’s Park, one of the six original parks in the Bronx, spans the history of the borough from the settler era to urban development. The park site was once part of the estate of Jonas Bronck (1600-43), for whom the Bronx is named. The park has led the way in the development of recreation programs in the Bronx, and the borough’s first playground opened in St. Mary’s Park in 1914. At this time, the park also had a baseball diamond, two tennis courts, and a children’s farm garden. In response to rapid population growth and residential construction in the neighborhood, three additional playgrounds opened in the park between 1938 and 1941.