Harry Maze Playground Ribbon Cutting

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Harry Maze Park in East Flatbush, Brooklyn now has a beautiful new playground. The ribbon cutting ceremony took place July 18th, opening with the Pledge of Allegiance led, quite appropriately, by young Linda Spencer. She was followed by Julius Spiegel, Brooklyn Borough Commissioner of the Parks Department, who asked the neighborhood children gathered there to guess how much it cost to rebuild the park. One child guessed $4,500 and another $100,000. Spiegel revealed that it was just short of $1 million received from their moms and dads and everyone who pays taxes “that Council Member Kendall Stewart decided he wanted to spend on this playground for you.�

Council Member Stewart declared that the project couldn’t have been accomplished without the help of a great number of folks, because fighting for the dollars for your district is hard, but making it happen after you get the money is too. He thanked the Landscape Architects Randee Stewart and Gabriel Keller who designed the park, Resident Engineers Marilyn Dutes and Peter Williams, as well as Team Leader David Martin and Deputy Team Leader Tulio Cabrera. Stewart called for a round of applause for Julius Spiegel for all the work he did “to make sure that this happened.�

Stewart also pointed out some of the community leaders in attendance who were integral to the project, such as Michael Russell, Chair of Community Board 17, Sharif Fraser, the Board’s Acting District Manager, Esther Tross, the Park Chair for the Board – who later gave a demonstration of the sprinklers that will keep the children cool in the summer heat – and Rick Tulloch who is also with Community Board 17. Stewart went on to say that one of his goals in bringing money back to the community is ensuring that children have beautiful playgrounds where they’re well protected and in an environment that will help them be in the right frame of mind to succeed. “Basically we want a good quality of life in this neighborhood so that any time you come here you can see the kids playing and enjoying the day,� Stewart said.

Elizabeth Ernish brought greetings from Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz’ office, stating that Markowitz had a very special message for Council Member Stewart. “He's Brooklyn's newest ‘Million Dollar Baby,’� she said. “There aren't that many council members who really put their money where their mouth is and fund outstanding public facilities like this, so we are forever in your debt. Congratulations, enjoy, and (referring to the 90 degree temperature) can we put the sprinklers back on? I'm ready!� Perhaps the most moving speaker of the day was Block Association President Morgan Gabriel who has lived across from the playground for 14 years. He painted a vivid picture of just how bad the situation had
become: the swings were abandoned, the place was overrun by drug dealers and dog trainers, and people came there for sex in the night. Then, Council Member Stewart came to a block party and Gabriel told him about the problem. Stewart assured him, “We shall fix it. We shall get it done.� “We care for one thing in this community,� commented Gabriel. “Results. We thank Dr. Stewart for a job well done.�

Another person who spoke quite movingly was Inspector Robert Boyce, Commanding Officer of the 67th Precinct. He said he didn’t know where he would be if he hadn’t have some place to go to play basketball when he was growing up. It kept him out of all sorts of things he shouldn't have been in, and he got the college scholarship out of it, too. “Parks helped make me the man I am today,� Boyce stated. “I appreciate anybody's effort with this park because any time you can get children moving in the right direction, which is what this is all about, it helps make my job easier. I ask everybody to get the word out that the park is beautiful and ready for use.� When the children first arrived, they were given “real gold� marshal badges. After the speakers were finished, Commissioner Spiegel swore them in. The children took an oath which stated: “I …promise to execute the office of Litter Prevention Marshal to the best of my ability. I will set an example to other children, and to adults by not littering and by helping to keep the parks clean.� Harry Maze Park now includes the playground, basketball courts, handball courts, fitness equipment, and a netball court, since the sport is so popular in the West Indies and the Parks Department tries to help immigrant groups maintain their own national sports. Under the direction of Joyce Apia, the Police Athletic League sets up every day, Monday through Friday, 9 AM to 5 PM, providing cultural arts and activities for the children such as crocheting, jewelry making, arts and crafts, finger painting, and more.

After the ribbon was cut, the children wasted no time in getting right to it. Within minutes, the playground was initiated as they tested the sprinklers, climbed the brightly painted structures and slid down the slides, all signs of many joyful days to come.

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