Aug. 24, 2023 By Michael Dorgan
The beaten-up basketball courts at Travers Park in Jackson Heights will soon get a makeover thanks to an allocation of more than $1 million in capital funding from the Queens Borough President’s Office.
Borough President Donovan Richards presented the NYC Parks Dept. with a $1.05 million check on Thursday, Aug. 24, to help the agency renovate the worn-out surface at the park, which is located between 77th and 78th streets on the north side of 34th Avenue.
Richards was joined by Parks Commissioner Jacqueline Langsam, Council member Shekar Krishnan, Assembly member Jessica González-Rojas and local youths for the presentation. Afterward, Richards and Krishnan played basketball on the courts with the youths.
Richards’ office is allocating the capital funding to the Parks Dept. so it can resurface the basketball courts which have fallen into disrepair. There are a number of cracks and holes in the current surface which makes it unsafe, Richards said, and it is also uneven.
“It makes dribbling harder, it makes getting hurt easier, and pain is the last thing our parks should be providing our neighbors, especially our children,” Richards said. “So today we’re here to announce a million dollars in funding to finally renovate these courts and to make it the Madison Square Garden of Jackson Heights. And maybe the next great Knicks player will get their start here because God knows we need them!”
Richards said the current surface will be ripped up with a new surface set to go down in its place. He added that it is important for neighborhoods to have quality public spaces.
“Investing in our parks is about much more than new playing surfaces, it’s all about giving our families positive and productive places to enjoy, to bond, to grow, to come together with their neighbors and enjoy the outdoors,” he said.
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Krishnan, who serves as the chair of the Committee on Parks and Recreation, welcomed the funding for the courts and said that Jackson Heights and the surrounding neighborhoods are starved of quality public spaces.
Krishan said the courts at Travers Park are packed all year round with people playing basketball.
“For Queens, for our communities of Jackson Heights and Elmhurst and East Elmhurst, making sure that we’re improving our public spaces here is not just an issue of equity or green space, its an issue of racial justice,” he said. “It’s an issue of public health, it an issue of mental health because parks and public spaces restore our health and public well being.”
González-Rojas echoed Krishnan’s comments and said that the park serves as a community hub. She said that her son, who is a regular user of the courts, has told her many times that it is in need of upgrades.
“Travers Park is a jewel of our community and it is a jewel within the jewel of 34th Avenue,” González-Rojas said, referring to the 34th Avenue Open Streets initiative which has seen a large stretch of the street transformed into a series of pedestrian plazas and traffic-restricted zones in order to create more public space. “Basketball and sports are about teams and that builds confidence… [and] this is so important.”
Richards’ announcement was part of his weeklong initiative of public programming events and funding announcements in northwestern Queens called Borough Hall on Your Block.
The initiative aims to engage residents with Richards’ office and connect them with public resources. Events include town hall meetings, employment and resource fairs, youth programming, and a block party. For instance, Richards was at Elmhurst Hospital on Monday, Aug. 21, where he presented the facility with $3 million in capital funding.
The $1.05 million in capital funding for Travers Park is sourced from the city’s expense budget. Every year, each borough president is allocated funds from the expense budget to be spent in his/her borough.
Richards said that in this fiscal year, he is allocating $20 million to improve parks across the borough.