Bellport mayor Ray Fell was excited as – well, a kid – about the new playground installed last week.
“Here’s a landing where kids can go up, and a climbing area ” he said, walking over to the nucleus play structure where youngsters can scramble up to the main deck and pretend they’re sea captains.
“Then there’s a disk where kids can go around, the orb rocker, then a modern seesaw, the glider.” There were different assortments of swings, a Red 8 Merry Go Round, and even an elliptical trainer and stretcher.
Little Ocean Shing was having a ball, tackling the lower part of the nucleus play structure. She was there with her caretaker Julie Kahn, a former teacher for 25 years. “We’ve been coming here every day,” Kahn said.
The new $148,500 playground was ordered from and installed by the American Playground Company. The purchase was made possible through a New York State grant championed by Brian Foley, deputy regional director, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
Foley explained the process. “Ray attended a spring 2019 New York State Regional Economic Development Council workshop; they have programs for funding awards,” explained Foley. “He was interested in municipal funding for parks and playground improvements.”
Fell submitted a presentation. “The village submitted their plans the end of July; the council was impressed and it was selected for the council’s priority list,” Foley said.
Fell said the grant money, from the NYS Environmental Protection Fund, paid $112,500, and was released early November. “The Bellport Village Program Fund supplemented $18,000, and the village added $18,000,” Fell said.
There were COVID delays; then the playground came.
Foley said over the last nine years, a major focus of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s included funding for municipalities.
Fell said the windfall was a total surprise.
“I didn’t think we were going to get it,” he said. “At the presentation, there were 100 groups vying for the grant. The panel had questions for everyone, except for us. There were no questions, so I didn’t think they were interested.”
Fell credited Foley for his help. “Normally, it takes three to five years to get a grant like this,” he said. “The young children will be the beneficiaries of this.”