City and elected officials cut the ribbon to the improved Sean’s Place playground last Thursday morning. The roughly $1 million project brings new amenities and a fresh look to the highly used space.
New features include repaved basketball courts, interactive play equipment suited for younger and older children, and new benches and fences.
The new decorative spray shower boasts colored pavement, and was moved away from the corner of the park. Parks officials kept a water-spraying frog, but moved the spray shower to the center of the playground.
“It totally transforms what was here before,” said Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski. “It’s colorful, it’s green, it has shade, it’s absolutely wonderful.”
Borough President Melinda Katz’s office allocated $750,000 for the project. Construction began in 2016 and was completed a year later. Prior to the capital project, Sean’s Place had not been renovated since 1998.
The borough president stressed the importance of making sure families throughout the borough have park space.
“Open space to run and play free, that’s what being a kid should be all about,” Katz said. “We look forward to many generations of play in this park.”
Katz also highlighted why this playground is called Sean’s Place. It’s named after Sean McDonald, a 26-year-old rookie police officer who was killed in the line of duty.
McDonald lived in Astoria, and graduated from Most Precious Blood Catholic School. After joining the NYPD, he was assigned to the 44th Precinct in the Bronx.
On March 15, 1994, McDonald was standing guard at a building when he was notified of a disturbance nearby. He went to investigate and walked into a robbery in progress. As he went to arrest one of the perpetrators, he was shot and killed.
The following year, city officials and community leaders dedicated the playground in his memory.
“It’s important that we remember these folks,” Katz said. “It’s something that needs to be stated time and time again so our children learn.”
Councilman Costa Constantinides noted that multiple parks and playgrounds in his district are in the pipeline for improvements, including Astoria Heights Playground, Astoria Park and Louis Moser Park in East Elmhurst.
“We’ve actually funded or seen the construction of half the parks in this district in the last four years,” he said. “There is a lot more to do, but we’re looking forward to seeing all of our playgrounds transformed.”
The councilman said he walks by Sean’s Place frequently and sees families using it daily.
“We improve a park, we improve the entire community,” he said.
In March 2016, elected officials raised concerns about the safety of the park after parents found crack pipes, used condoms, broken beer bottles and other drug paraphernalia at Sean’s Place. They were left behind by trespassers who used the playground as a “nighttime hangout” spot.
Since then, the Parks Department has locked the gate at 9 p.m., which Lewandowski said they will continue to do.
Constantinides said his office has received a few calls about the park, but they’ve been keeping “a close eye on it.”
“We’ve worked with the Parks Department and the police to rectify any situations,” he said. “We’re always going to strive to keep it in good condition.
“If things are a challenge, we’re going to act, we’re not going to wait,” Constantinides added. “We’re going to make sure we deal with them quickly.”