It is no secret that Juniper Valley Park has a unique, historical past. With its origins as a swamp that was harvested for peat, a racetrack that was the entertainment hub of the community, a phantom village that was a part of one of Arnold Rothstein’s moneymaking schemes, and even an ice-skating rink, that served as a swimming hole in the summer months known as “bare ass beach;” the park has certainly left its mark on history. Not to mention the fact that the park was used by both Colonial and British soldiers during the American Revolutionary War as a hiding place, and as an army camp during World War II for our soldiers.

Our park has been improved and enhanced since its debut in 1942 with its current offerings being ballfields, a hockey rink, a running track, state-of-the-art playgrounds and tennis, bocce and handball courts. Although the park has been rehabilitated since its inception and is a gorgeous part of our neighborhood, there are a few issues plaguing the park that we have to fix for the future of Juniper.

Recently, $1 million was allocated to Juniper for rehabilitation of the handball and bocce courts, but there are physical aspects of the park that are still in desperate need of repair with one of the most glaring problems being the tennis courts. Basic wear and tear aside, all the storms that have ravaged our community have left the tennis courts badly cracked and in poor condition; the repair of these courts should be something we look to in the future as they are a defining part of the park, and a feature of the park that residents pay additional fees to use. Another physical aspect of the park that we need to focus on in the future is caring for the trees, and replacing the trees that have been destroyed by the microburst in 2010, Hurricane Irene and a snowstorm in October 2011 that hit our community. More improvements that could also be made to the park in the future include turf ball fields and the re-surfacing of the hockey rink.

A separate issue facing the park is overuse. The park is absolutely there for our residents to use and enjoy, but when large, boisterous parties take place in the park every weekend, without proper permits, it becomes a problem within the community. These parties, barbecues and picnics often take place on the outskirts of the park closest to the homes surrounding the park, sometimes with a DJ blasting music, disrupting the peace and quiet in the neighborhood. By law, any party taking place in any park in New York City requires a permit if there are over 20 people attending. In addition, if the party wants to play music, an amplified sound permit is required from the police department. These rules need to be enforced to ensure that the park maintains a peaceful co-existence within our neighborhood. The Park Enforcement Patrol (PEP) exists to make sure rules are enforced, but their assistance is limited as their time and resources are focused on larger, more problematic parks. Therefore, we as a community need to understand these rules and abide by them because if the park starts to deteriorate, it is inevitable that our neighborhood will too.

The park has its own fleet of guardians; the Juniper Park Conservancy, the Juniper Park Civic Association and many volunteers who donate their time to keeping the park in excellent condition. The Juniper Conservancy raises funds for the park, and all donations to the Conservancy are used to enhance existing facilities at Juniper. Most recently, Abe Shampaner of The Learning Tree donated $600 to the Conservancy with moneys raised from a bake sale. It is this type of community involvement and pride that helps Juniper remain a beautiful centerpiece of our community. The civic association has always been a watchdog for the park. The association is always working to improve and maintain the park while keeping the best interests of the community at hand. Last, but certainly not least, volunteers work yearround to keep Juniper in tip-top shape. Residents donating their time and energy to keeping our park beautiful is a testament to what Juniper means to our community.

The future of Juniper Valley Park is actually in our hands. As a community, we have to above all enjoy the park, but always remember to keep a careful eye on it. Maybe that means putting up more signage around the park with clear rules, and actually enforcing those rules. Or maybe it simply means treating the park as you would your own personal property, with respect. We have to remember that our community shares a delicate bond with Juniper, each is a reflection of the other.

How can I do an article about Juniper Valley Park without some bragging! New Yorkers for Parks recently gave Juniper Valley Park an “A” rating with perfect scores for its playgrounds, bathrooms and ball fields. No surprise to anyone in the JPCA as you can see from reading this article but it reinforces the message of what hard work it is to keep Juniper Park at the top of its game, and its “A” rating also reflects the condition of our great community of Middle Village!