Last Tuesday, Assemblyman Ron Kim, leaders from the Bland Residents Association and local youth cut the ribbon to the long-awaited improvements.
Kim nominated the $750,000 project for funding through the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY). NYCHA administered the project.
The assemblyman said fixing the dilapidated facilities was the first promise he made to Bland Houses residents when he was elected six years ago.
“This is a tremendous win for our community,” Kim said.
Melba Bardales, board treasurer for the Bland Residents Association, said the playground was in bad shape before the renovation.
“Most of the park was being held together by tape,” she said. “The kids couldn’t really enjoy it, it was dirty.”
The basketball court was also “pretty damaged,” she said. There were cracks all over the floors, and the backboards were broken.
But now that both facilities are renovated, Bardales said she’s happy seeing kids enjoy the park, especially in the summer.
“They don’t have to sit at home or in front of the building,” she said. “They can come back here and play with each other. It’s a big change.”
The next step for the 22-year Bland Houses resident is funding a community center that can host an afterschool program and other services for children.
Bardales noted that most kids walk to Latimer Gardens, which is a mile away on Linden Boulevard, for summer camp. She stressed that to get there, they have to cross a dangerous Northern Boulevard.
A community center would also be helpful for teenagers, she said, many of whom have “gotten into a lot of trouble” in the area.
“They don’t have anything to do, they don’t have anywhere to go,” Bardales said. “They hang out here, the cops come and give them tickets for no reason.”
She added that she hopes funding for a community center will be allocated in the next two years.
“It’s not just the kids in the development, but a lot of the kids in the community,” she said. “We need it really badly.”
Kim added that the Queens Botanical Garden hosted a program for kids recently, and families and children trekked two miles in the hot weather to get there.
To the assemblyman, that means there’s a strong need for more youth services in the area.
“If we have access, I know the kids would go and learn and thrive,” Kim said.