The five-acre patch of green space on Shaler Avenue, formerly known as Farmers Oval, has been a recreational haven for generations of local children and teens alike. But now, broken playground equipment, torn rubber padding, worn football fields and an abandoned garden-turned-unauthorized-dog run have made the park unsightly and unsafe, say concerned parents.
“The park has always been a refuge. It was a little worn, but now it has deteriorated and it is getting progressively worse” said Yong Cao, a mother of two who admits she no longer feels comfortable letting her children play there.
Cao and nearly 100 other parents formed The Friends of Mafera Park several years ago to lobby for needed upgrades. Aside from fixing the vandalized roller hockey rink around four years ago, their requests have fallen on deaf ears.
The group planned to host a rally at the park on June 16 at 5 p.m., inviting elected officials, Parks Department representatives, Community Board 5 members and Community Affairs officers from the 104th Precinct to tour the park so they can see the state of disrepair firsthand.
“We have this big beautiful space but it is underutilized,” said Linda Byszynski, a leading member of The Friends of Mafera Park. “We could have better equipment and fix things up so more people can use the park and feel safer.”
Byszynski said as it stands the playground jungle gym is concentrated in a small area, where adults also use the bars to exercise, and the dog run is adjacent to the baby swings, which poses a health hazard.
What’s more, she said some people loiter in the sports fields, drinking alcohol, urinating on the grounds and leaving their garbage behind.
“We have 140,000 residents who use this park and millions of dollars are spent to upgrade other spaces like Juniper Valley Park, why can’t we have that too?” Byszynski asked.
Connie Altamirano, a community activist who has advocated for a host of local issues, said residents reached out to her for help.
“The pandemic has proven that parks are essential to our well-being and has also shown us the value of parks and open space,” she said. “The parents who asked me for help say Mafera Park is the heart of the Glendale and Ridgewood communities.”