Dec. 15, 2012 By Bill Parry
Dozens of young children and their parents cheered the news that Shady Park will reopen on Saturday morning.
The news was delivered by Sheila Lewandowski, one of the organizing members of Friends of Shady Park, during an afternoon event to clean and decorate what she called, “The spiritual heart of our neighborhood.”
The park, known officially as Andrews Grove, was devastated during Hurricane Sandy over six weeks ago. Eight huge trees that provided a rich canopy were wiped out by the strong winds.
Friends of Shady Park was formed in the immediate aftermath of the storm with the mission of restoring the park. Memories of the storm are still vivid. “It was horrifying to hear the trees explode,” said Lewandowski, “I saw three generations of people crying at the fence as they saw what happened here. Now we’re trying to figure out how much time and money it will take to restore the canopy.”
Emmett O’Malley and his two children, who live on the eastern edge of the park, joined volunteers during the cleanup. Eighteen trash bags were filled with debris left by the storm. O’Malley said, “I don’t think they’ll be able to restore it to its former glory, but anything they can do would be great. This is the neighborhood’s backyard and children grow up loving this park.”
The group is working with the Parks Department and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer to develop a plan of action. “We’re working with local businesses about helping to defray the cost,” said Van Bramer. He later told the crowd, “We will not walk away from Shady Park until we restore its shady splendor.”
A decision has not been made whether to transplant mature trees or start from scratch by planting small trees. “We’re still gathering information,” said Lewandowski, “If we choose to plant small trees it may take sixty years to reproduce the canopy.”
State Senator Michael Gianaris joined Van Bramer and the rest of the crowd in decorating a Christmas tree. While the park reopens in the morning, the rear section will remain closed for the foreseeable future because of safety issues. The trees fell with such force the concrete remains cracked and uneven.