Written by Christy Hinko: firstname.lastname@example.org Friday, 18 May 2012 00:00
The grand opening of the fully accessible park and playground in Eisenhower Park, Field 4, the Let All The Children Play (LATCP) project, was highly anticipated, and met with great praise from those in attendance at the Friday, May 4 ribbon cutting ceremony.
Some of the local officials included Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, Adam Weingarten, Michael Alon, chairman and founder of LATCP; David Weingarten, vice chairman of LATCP; Assemblymen Harvey Weisenberg, Tom McKevitt and Ed Ra; Nassau County legislators Denise Ford, Rose Walker and Dave Denenberg. Also in attendance were representatives of the environmental bond act needed to move forward with the ground breaking of the playground project, and corporate sponsor, Astoria Federal Savings President/CEO Monte Redman.
The playground is located in Eisenhower Park’s parking field 4 on two-acres of shaded area. The $1.25 million project has been in development since 2007 in coordination with the Nassau County Department of Parks, Recreation and Museums.
The play area features custom equipment and structures suiting children and adults with disabilities, adapted swings, safety surfacing throughout (safe treading), accessible pathways, and sound and sensory amenities.
In November 2006 Nassau County residents approved the environmental bond act with 80 percent support, to include space acquisition, park improvement, and water protection. This kicked off the project. Denenberg gave a brief explanation of how the vote was unanimous in legislation for this project, how the bond act played out and was approved, to allow beginning development of the playground in 2007.
“Come see what we can do, not what we cannot do,” said Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg about people of all abilities.
Weisenberg, also a retired special education teacher, expressed great support and passion for this playground coming to fruition. He spoke to those in attendance, anxious to get the first peek at the all-abilities playground, saying “today is another example of our success,” thanking Tom Suozzi, who was the county executive when this project first began, “planting the seed.” He said, “Ed Mangano carried the ball; his leadership brought to view the success that we are enjoying today.” County Executive Ed Mangano also acknowledged a bipartisan effort for the public-private work needed for the playground.
“You will have to look long and hard to find a better example of a successful public-private partnership that works for the greater good of the community,” said Mangano. “Together, we have dedicated ourselves to breaking down barriers and improving the lives and dignity of children with disabilities by providing them with the opportunity to experience play, side-by-side, with their able-bodied peers.”
Just prior to the official opening, guests were treated to a special performance by the United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) singers.
LATCP, located in Cedarhurst, is dedicated to improving the lives and dignity of all children by developing accessible playgrounds and inclusive recreation programs allowing children with disabilities the opportunity to experience play, side-by-side, with their able-bodied peers.
“It is my hope that the entire community comes out and enjoys this new jewel in the heart of Nassau County,” said Michael Alon, chairman and founder of LATCP. “I believe that this accessible park will be extremely beneficial to all children since inclusion provides typical children with the ability to develop leadership skills and compassion while children with disabilities develop a greater level of self-confidence and feeling of acceptance.”
On Saturday, May 5 a family fun day was held in addition to the park’s opening. LATCP provided additional inclusive activities for all, including: sports clinics, cheer clinics (provided by 5 Star Sports and Entertainment Academy), arts and crafts, face painting, and unicycle lessons (provided by JustOneWheel.org.)
“The opening of our highly anticipated universally accessible playground was a huge success. We introduced families and friends to this unique inclusive play environment, which can be visited year round. The children had a great time which was evident by all the smiles and laughter; they knew it was a place where everyone could be included. Seeing that was truly incredible, ” said Jean-Marie Smith, director of operations of LATCP.
“The Let All The Children Play Park and Playground is truly a dream come true for me,” said David Weingarten, the founding director and now vice chairman of the board of LATCP. “As the father of a son with Down syndrome who is already 27 years old, my wife and I had always wished that there was a place where Adam could play with his more able-bodied peers- and his sister- in an inclusive environment. I am grateful that our founder, Michael Alon shared my vision and believed in making this park a reality.
“With his support and that of our many LATCP donors, Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg, County Executive Edward Mangano, the Nassau County legislature and Carnell Foskey, commissioner of the Nassau County department of parks, recreation and museums, this playground will create many new recreational opportunities for all children in Nassau County, those with or without disabilities.”
LATCP also continues to take donations in support of the project with its “Buy A Brick” program. Visit LATCP.org to make a donation or purchase an engraved brick for the entrance walkway. Donor “kite” signs that are installed along the perimeter fencing are also available for purchase.