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Parks Dept. to Kick Off the Design Phase of Michael Davidson Park, Scoping Meeting Planned

Foreground: Michael Davidson, who died at 37 after responding to a five-alarm fire in Harlem earlier this year. Background: The former Phipps Playground site.

Nov. 18, 2020 By Christian Murray

The plan to transform the former Phipps Playground in Sunnyside into a thriving city park is about to take a significant step forward.

Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer announced today that the Parks Dept. is about to enter the design phase and is hosting a public scoping meeting on Dec.16 to solicit feedback as to what should be built on the historic site.

The plans to convert the 1/4 arce lot–located at the corner of 39th Avenue and 50th Street–into a public park have been in the works since 2016. The project has involved the lengthy process of buying the site from a private developer and getting the funds needed in order to do so.

The new park will be named after Lt. Michael R. Davidson Playground, a firefighter who died while responding to a five-alarm fire in Harlem in March 2018. Davidson was born and raised in Sunnyside in the Phipps Housing Complex across the street from the playground.

“This [scoping] meeting makes it clear that the Lt. Michael R. Davidson Playground will be realized,” said Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, who has secured more than $6 million in city funds to buy the property and build the park. “For people who been wondering what is happening this is proof that it is moving forward. This is good news.”

The scoping meeting will provide the public with an opportunity to put forward their ideas as to what they would like to go there.

“It’s essentially an open canvas and I hope that many people signup and present their ideas,” Van Bramer said.

Van Bramer said there are calls for a memorial to go on the site that pays tribute to Davidson and many want the historic playground items that are currently on the site to remain. The site is located in the Sunnyside Gardens Historic District.

The site has been vacant for about 30 years and many lifelong Sunnyside and Woodside residents played there as children. The playground is one of the only remaining depression-era playgrounds still in existence. The old shed, sandbox pavilion and swings & slides remain.

Phipps Houses, the real estate management company, owned the playground for decades. However, in 2007, it sold the property to the development company DBH.

DBH put forward a highly contentious plan to develop the site in 2013 which included the development of eight residential units and a historic house – made of metal.

The plan was ultimately shot down by the Landmark Preservation Commission after it was panned by local officials and Community Board 2. Soon after, Van Bramer pledged to convert the property into a park.

The city officially acquired the property from DBH on Sept. 12, 2019.

For details on the scoping meeting, click here

Old Park Photo (QP)

Click here to register for the meeting on Dec. 16, 2020.

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