$500,000 state grant released for long-awaited Mr. B’s Playground

Handicapped-accessible play space one step closer to construction

The playground proposed for Hickey Field, above, is one step closer to becoming a reality after State Sen. Todd Kaminsky helped secure a $500,000 grant for the project.
The playground proposed for Hickey Field, above, is one step closer to becoming a reality after State Sen. Todd Kaminsky helped secure a $500,000 grant for the project.
Courtesy Village of Rockville Centre

The inclusive space slated for the east side of Rockville Centre’s Hickey Field — known in long-anticipated plans as Mr. B’s Playground — is one step closer to construction.

The state granted the village $500,000 for the project through the Senate’s State and Municipal Grant Program, Sen. Todd Kaminsky said last week.

“It’s cleared the state entanglement that kind of has held it for a while, and it’s moving forward and it’s going to be a reality,” Kaminsky said. “It’s some exciting news.”

The playground, meant for children of all abilities, will cost about $1.2 million to build, and will be named after longtime Recreation Superintendent Anthony Brunetta, known as Mr. B, who died in 2016. It is planned to stretch from the northwest corner of Sunrise Highway and North Forest Avenue to the right-field fence of Hickey Field’s smaller baseball diamond, and will replace the basketball and handball courts that are there now.

Plans for the area include a suspension bridge; musical equipment, such as bells, drums and step-on chimes; swings; a climbing cargo net; a toddler play area; a seating plaza; restrooms; a storage area; and an amphitheater with a stage and seating, the Herald previously reported.

The grant, which former State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos applied for in 2014, was held up after the Rockville Centre politico was indicted on corruption charges in 2015. A jury found Skelos and his son, Adam, guilty last month in their retrial in Manhattan’s U.S. District Court.

“There was always this fear that the $500,000 might be reallocated to a different project, and we really kept it on track and worked hard on that,” Kaminsky said.

The village had been in talks with engineers to split the project into phases in order to break ground faster. Though the village, with help from the Tommy Brull Foundation and the Rockville Centre Lions Club, had collected more than $330,000 for the project over the last two years as of May, planners said they needed a total of about $600,000 — enough to complete Phase One — before they could begin building.

The Tommy Brull Foundation, dedicated to raising money for people with physical, mental and emotional challenges since 2008, has donated more than $60,000 to the project.

“This news is super-exciting,” Martin Brull, founder of the foundation, said of the state grant. “It’s such a high goal that is very hard to do without this grant.

“This is a project that has been really near and dear to my heart. It’s been a long time coming,” he continued, calling the current space an eyesore. “The Brull family has been working with families of special-needs kids for many years and feel that this playground is the next step in inclusive playing.”

Fliers soliciting donations were sent out in recent weeks to about 11,000 Rockville Centre homes. The initiative was “well-received,” according to Maureen Jordan, the Lions Club treasurer, who did not reveal the total funds raised through donations over the past several months.

“We remain confident that with the continued support of the community, and additional funding from Lions foundations, corporate sponsors and government sources, we will be able to make Mr. B’s playground a reality in the near future,” Jordan said.

Village spokeswoman Julie Scully said the board of trustees must vote to accept the grant, and that no construction would begin before the vote.

“This state-of-the art playground, named after our beloved Mr. B, will provide children with all abilities the experience of play, while encouraging acceptance and promoting overall health and wellness,” Mayor Francis X. Murray said in a statement. “I cannot thank Sen. Todd Kaminsky enough for securing this $500,000 grant that will go a long way towards our goal of building this inclusive playground in our community for all to enjoy.”

To donate, or to purchase a brick to be included in the park, visit www.rvclions.com.