Oct. 29, 2019. By Shane O’Brien
Elected officials, NYC Parks Representatives and members of the FDNY will come together Wednesday to dedicate the new park planned at Phipps Playground to Michael Davidson, a Sunnyside firefighter who died in the line of duty last year.
The city recently bought the large property on the corner of 50th Street and 39th Avenue – which was the former site of the private playground – and plans to convert it into a public park.
The city officially acquired the 10,000 square foot property on Sept. 12, 2019 and will be revamping it following community feedback, according to Charisse Hill, a spokesperson for the Parks Dept.
NYC Parks will be hosting a public scoping meeting in winter 2020 to kick off the design process. The Parks Department estimates that the park will take three years from now until it is complete.
The new property will be officially dedicated to Davidson on Wednesday.
Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, Assembly Member Brian Barnwell, NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver and FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro will be joined by civic leaders and advocates at the former playground, located at 50-02 39th Ave, at 11 a.m. Wednesday to honor Davidson’s service and legacy.
FDNY Lieutenant Davidson 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 Phipps playground.
He died while the city was in the process of acquiring the Phipps Playground site.
The former playground has been vacant for decades and once served children who lived at the Phipps Housing Complex. The once privately owned lot is one of the few depression era playgrounds still in existence and remnants of the shed, sandbox pavilion, swings and slide still remain somewhat intact.
Phipps owned the complex until 2007 when the site was sold to development company DBH for $1.4 million.
DBH put forward a highly contentious plan to develop the site in 2013 which included the installation of eight residential units and an aluminaire house – made of metal. The plan was ultimately shot down by Community Board 2, local officials and the Landmark Preservation Commission.
Around the same time, Jimmy Van Bramer started working on securing city funds to buy the property and turn it into a public park. In 2016, he secured $3 million to acquire and renovate it.
The department of Citywide Administrative Services later stepped in to negotiate a sale.
Van Bramer recently secured a further $2.5 million to go toward the renovation of the playground as part of the 2020 city budget.