Anyone who enters Averill Boulevard Park at its main entrance in Franklin Square has to negotiate a heaving, broken sidewalk or an unevenly paved street to get to a depression framing a manhole cover. Then, once inside the town park, a visitor can’t help noticing a maintenance building that hasn’t been re-paired since it was built more than 55 years ago, its eaves drooping ever since Superstorm Sandy devastated Long Island in 2012.
These conditions prompted Roseann Randazzo, who lives across the street on Averill Boulevard, to create a petition in August 2019, calling for Town of Hempstead officials to repair the park and its surroundings. The petition asked the town to repave the entirety of Averill Boulevard, between Whiteside and Tulip avenues, replace the maintenance building’s eaves and repair the maintenance parking lot, where water stagnates, leading to mosquito infestations.
The area has become an eyesore for neighbors, Randazzo said, and Averill Boulevard has not been repaved for 15 to 20 years. The town has done spot repairs with asphalt several times, she said, but the street keeps sinking and cracking.
“Part of the road surface looks like someone just took a bucket of paving materials and dumped them randomly everywhere on the road,” Randazzo wrote in the petition, which was signed by 16 Averill Boulevard residents last year. “We are asking the town [to] prioritize our tax dollars to budget for the road and park improvements.”
In response, a representative of then Town Supervisor Laura Gillen’s office wrote last October that the town would continue to follow up on Randazzo’s request with its parks, highway and engineering departments.
But when the town administration changed this year, Randazzo said, “I guess the request fell though.”
So she decided to work with the Franklin Square Civic Association to create a new petition. “We’re hoping to get it more widespread,” said Katherine Tarascio, the association’s president. The group has been circulating it in its weekly emails, and as of Monday it had 14 signatures.
The park features two pools, playgrounds, walking paths, basketball courts, a racquetball court, softball fields and the only public soccer fields in Franklin Square. “It’s important that if we have a park with the only amenity of that kind, it should be [kept up],” Tarascio said.
Randazzo added, “I think the kind of repairs we need come from the top.”
The maintenance building, which was erected at the park’s entrance because the land was flat there, is “worn and derelict, and has not had significant work done to improve or update its appearance,” the petition states. Additionally, Randazzo said, the siding is falling off, a window is broken and a piece of the roof, which was repainted a dark brown, has been “flopping in the wind for years.”
To make matters worse, more people have been visiting the park since the coronavirus pandemic began in March, Randazzo said, and could potentially get their feet stuck in the depressions in the pavement or fall on the uneven sidewalks.
But when she called the town recently, Randazzo was told that the Parks Department had no plans to repair the siding of the maintenance building, and that Averill Boulevard was not on the town’s schedule of street repairs. She said she was told that the Highway Department would “just do another patch-up.”
“I feel like we don’t have to look like we’re in a city,” Randazzo said, noting that the west side of the park appears to be in better condition. “I just feel our side’s being neglected.”
The town, meanwhile, is replacing an on-site fuel tank, according to Greg Blower, the director of communications, and once that is done, he said, the Parks and Recreation Department will begin renovating the sidewalks and aprons and repaving the parking lot. Town officials are also considering renovating the basketball courts and additional landscaping.
“Please be assured that our on-site parks staff works hard to maintain and upkeep the facility, while emphasizing safety,” Blower said, “and the Town of Hempstead is always happy to maintain dialogue and consider suggestions from our neighbors.”
To sign Randazzo’s petition, go to https://bit.ly/3jsAkcd.