Last Friday, local elected officials and the Parks Department cut the ribbon to mark the completion of a $2.6 million project.
Funded collectively by the mayor’s office, Borough President Melinda Katz and the City Council, the project upgraded the park’s picnic and barbeque areas, performance space and fitness equipment.
New mile markers, courtesy of New York Road Runners, have been installed along the “walking oval” inside the park. The pathways, staircases and plantings have also been reconstructed.
“Parks like Cunningham support all generations of a community,” said Queens Parks Commissioner Michael Dockett. “They help us grow and give us a place to enjoy, play and relax.”
Earlier this month, Dockett said he visited the park with his family and his dog, Titan. They walked around the oval a few times and tried out the fitness equipment.
“My family especially enjoyed watching me do a gymnastics routine on the parallel bars,” he said. “In high school, I was a gymnast.”
The commissioner noted several capital projects underway at Cunningham Park. The lower playground tot lot, known as Redwood Playground, is in active reconstruction. This nearly $1.7 million project is slated for completion by this July.
The Upper Playground will also undergo renovations. Finally, the Parks Department is in the design phase of the reconstruction of Vanderbilt Motor Parkway from Springfield Boulevard to 199th Street.
Katz highlighted several events and concerts that take place at Cunningham Park, from Jewish Music Under the Stars to Queens Symphony Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic.
“It’s like bees to honey,” she said. “Everyone in the neighborhood comes with their lawn chairs and sets up for the performances.”
Councilman Barry Grodenchik added that the park has “something for everybody,” including bocce, tennis, basketball, softball and even mountain biking.
“This is a haven not just for the people of this community,” he said. “People come from all over Queens to enjoy this.”
Marc Haken, president of the Friends of Cunningham Park since 1995, said the project was initially funded by former Councilman Mark Weprin during participatory budgeting. As head of the group, he will be tasked to help with programming at the park.
Though he’s unsure at the moment what the venue could be used for –– it could be for a puppet show or a musical performance –– Haken said he’s always looking for new ideas.
Now that this project is complete, and several more are underway, the longtime parks advocate is thinking about other possible improvements to Cunningham.
His first idea is to redo the bocce courts. Haken said one is in fairly good shape, but the other is in “awful” condition. The approximate cost would be $1 million, he said.
The second project would be to add pickleball courts to Cunningham Park.
This summer, Haken said he already has many activities planned, including six movies, two Shakespeare presentations and a concert to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Woodstock.
“We want people to come to our park,” he said. “We’ll have more activities than we’ve had in the past.”