Community members and school staff joined Councilman Daniel Dromm, Borough President Helen Marshall and Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson it the field, located at 33-16 79th Street, last Thursday to announce the purchase.
“It's a glorious day,” Dromm said. “This has been a long road, but we finally got to the end of it.”
Sale of the land was negotiated at $6 million, with $4 million allocated by Dromm and $1 million each by Marshall and Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Included in the construction of an expanded Travers Park will be the permanent closing of 78th Street between Northern Boulevard and 34th Avenue for a pedestrian plaza.
Currently, 78th Street is closed in July and August for community use.
Dromm said the school could've made more money on the sale had it also sold air space, but creating a bigger park for the community took priority over increasing profits from a building developer.
Dromm said he presented the plan to Bloomberg at a Jackson Heights Mulch Festival last year.
“I said Mr. Mayor, 'just imagine if you will for a moment, if you can expand this park, and we can close 78th street and we can purchase this piece of land,'” he said.
The deal was made possible largely because of Wolfson's dedication, along with that of community groups, the Garden School and local philanthropists, Dromm said.
“The school was looking for the best deal they could get, but also wanted to maintain its commitment to the community,” Wolfson said. “They wanted to do the right thing by the community and help make this space available.”
Next, Dromm said he will secure capital funding and community input to build up the athletic field and the pedestrian plaza on 78th Street, which could take another year.
Marshall said she taught school in Jackson Heights, and referred to the neighborhood as her second home.
“Parks are very, very important to our people,” she said. “This project is a win-win situation, both for the Garden School which has been under financial strain, and the community which has a great need for local open space.”