June 20, 2019 By Christian Murray
The City Council passed the 2020 budget yesterday and millions has been allocated toward Sunnyside and Woodside parks, district schools, local cultural groups and libraries.
Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer said that several parks in the district will be upgraded as part of the $92.8 billion budget.
“This was a big year for our parks,” Van Bramer said. “We were able to get a lot of funds,” he said, noting how the 2020 budget was “incredibly good” for the district.
He said that $2.5 million has been allocated to renovate the former Phipps Playground site at the corner of 39th Avenue and 50th Street; $1.5 million for the revamp of Sohncke Square in Woodside; $3.7 million to upgrade Rainey Park in Long Island City; and $1.3 million for Sixteen Oaks Grove, a park located in Dutch Kills.
Van Bramer said that the $2.5 million allocation to upgrade the former Phipps Playground—to be called Lt. Michael Davidson Playground, after a local firefighter killed in the line of duty last year– comes on top of a previous $3 million allocation to buy the property.
With the city close to acquiring the site, Van Bramer said the $2.5 million is needed to design and build it.
Van Bramer said that he was pleased to announce funding for the upgrade of Sohncke Square, located at 58th Street and Woodside Ave.
“This is a central and visible part of Woodside, right across from St. Sebastian’s. We have our annual Christmas Tree lighting there and I have noticed it hasn’t changed in decades. I want to see it beautified, where it will enhance the quality of life.”
The square will be upgraded to include new seating, gardens and a flag pole, among other features.
Van Bramer said that the funds to be spent on Rainey Park, located on Vernon Boulevard by 34th Avenue, will go toward improving the athletic fields, pathways and greening. Meanwhile the funds at Sixteen Oaks Grove have been allocated toward a new seating area, grass areas, among other items.
Van Bramer said that schools in the district will receive $2.5 million in additional funding this year. He said the funds are going toward tech upgrades, as well as a school yard renovation at P.S. 111Q and a new hydroponics science lab at P.S. 150Q, among other projects.
Van Bramer, who chair’s the Council’s Cultural Affairs and Libraries committee, said that the libraries fared well in the budget.
The three public library systems—Queens, Brooklyn and New York—were originally going to have their budgets slashed by a total of $16 million, which would have seen a reduction in hours, weekend service and staff.
Last week, however, Van Bramer and Council Speaker Corey Johnson announced that a deal had been reached with the mayor where there would in fact be an additional $33 million added to the library budget, which was $388 million in 2019. This is expected to lead to additional programs and better six-day service, Van Bramer said.
Some of the new items in the budget this year include funding for Drag Queen Story Hour and for holiday lights on 43rd Avenue in Sunnyside.
Van Bramer said that he had secured $5,000 for Drag Queen Story Hour, which will fund 10 story hours throughout the district.
He said the story hour program is growing in popularity and that he has heard from local libraries and parents requesting it.
He said that holiday lights will be coming to 43rd Avenue this year to help local businesses and brighten up the area.
For more details on Van Bramer’s allocations, click here.