Story of Redemption

A little over a month ago, the thought of Gary Sanchez being mentioned as a candidate for Comeback Player of the Year would have been an outrageous suggestion.
In fact, it appeared the much-maligned Yankees catcher would find himself more likely to be a candidate to be designated for assignment.
For the first month and change of 2021, Gary Sanchez looked like the same player we saw in 2020.
That was not a good thing.
Sanchez’s performance at the plate was so problematic, the Yankees relegated him to the backup role behind journeyman catcher Kyle Higashioka.
Gary Sanchez was one step away from becoming a former Yankee and was basically left for dead by the entire fan base.
Rightfully so. Sanchez was a promising catching phenom in 2016 and 2017. He was a two-time All-Star, but always faced tons of scrutiny because of his lackluster defense behind the plate.
The problem Sanchez ran into in 2020 and for the first month-and-a-half of 2021 is that his offense was nowhere close to what it used to be.
I don’t know if it was the benching or the reality of his contractual situation, but in late May something changed in Gary Sanchez.
He eliminated the dopey leg kick that lengthened his swing. He also shortened up and focused on doing a far better job of making contact.
Slowly but surely, the Yankees started to see the results of a player who turned a corner.
Now in the middle of June, we can say that Sanchez has experienced a career renaissance.
Instead of being the guy you dreaded seeing at the plate in a big situation, he has become the guy you’re dying to see up with the game on the line.
Over the last month, Sanchez has hit .310 with six home runs, knocking in 14 runs in the process.
His performance over the last six weeks has shockingly put him in a position to be an All-Star in 2021.
I’ve always defended the Yankees sticking by Gary Sanchez over the last few seasons. I may have been one of the last apologists, but the talent was always undeniable.
The Yankees have doubled and tripled down on Sanchez over the last few seasons, and over the last month he has made them look smart for doing so.
I hope that these newfound adjustments continue the career turnaround for one of the most polarizing Yankees over the last 20-plus years.

Bucks beat Brooklyn in seven for trip to Eastern Conference Finals

The Nets season came to an end on Saturday, cut short by the Milwaukee Bucks in an epic Game 7. After being pegged as a contender, Brooklyn’s playoff run lasted just two rounds, a disappointing conclusion to a record-setting year.
The Nets played with all three of their superstar trio for just eight games in the regular season, but in the second round of the playoffs, the Big Three lasted just 40 seconds before James Harden reaggravated his hamstring injury. Without him, the Nets were still able to brush aside the Bucks, taking Game 1 before blowing them out in Game 2.
The series quickly swung to the Bucks’ favor as it moved to Milwaukee. A gritty Game 3 let the Bucks back in the series with a 86-83 win. Brooklyn’s 83 points were not only their lowest score all season, but the fewest points recorded by either team in any Nets game this year.
The attention turned to Game 4, with the Nets still firmly in control. Still Brooklyn was lackluster on offense, and it only got worse as Kyrie Irving became the second Nets star to exit with an injury.
After putting up an uncontested layup, Kyrie landed on Giannis Antetokounmpo’s foot, spraining his ankle. The Nets guard stayed on the ground in clear pain and was quickly taken out. Without either of their star-studded backcourt pair, Brooklyn was unable to match the Bucks, who leveled the series at 2 with a 107-96 win.
Suddenly, Brooklyn’s backs were up against the wall. In what seemed to be another easy round, they had lost two starting guards and returned home in a tight spot. While the Nets were able to coast to the 2nd seed despite injuries and setbacks, that was not an option in the postseason. Despite Harden’s grade-2 hamstring injury lingering, he was announced as available with just hours before tip-off, eventually taking the floor for his 2nd start of the series.
The bulk of the workload fell on the shoulders of Kevin Durant, who seems to have never missed time after his Achilles injury. After averaging just under 30 points over the first four games, Durant exploded in Game 5 for an all-time playoff performance.
KD played all 48 minutes of the game, scoring 49 points and picking up a triple-double with 17 rebounds and 10 assists. Despite the dynamic Milwaukee defense, Durant knocked down 70% of his shots. KD scored 20 of his points in the final quarter, with a pair of deep three-pointers putting Brooklyn up for good with minutes to go.
After Brooklyn took Game 5 115-108, they again came out flat on the road. For the third time in the series, the Nets were held to under 100 points, falling 104-8. Role players like Joe Harris and Jeff Green got cold after strong performances earlier in the series combining for just 14 points, with nobody on the bench scoring more than five.
The Nets neglected the bench in the final game of the series, only using Green for 13 minutes, Landry Shamet for seven, and Nic Claxton for a single inbound play at the end of regulation. None of them recorded a single point. Again the workload fell on the Nets stars, with Harden this time playing almost every minute despite his injury.
It may not have been wise to overplay Harden, especially given how limited his offensive game was. Without his leg at 100% Harden lost his ability to consistently hit deep shots and beat perimeter defense to drive to the rim. Though his role was to take pressure off of Durant, Harden’s shooting was not enough to add significant points to the scoreboard. Harden shot just 5-26 from three and under 24% from the floor through the series.
Again it was Durant who stepped up for a legendary game, almost single-handedly willing the Nets into the Eastern Conference Finals. KD was automatic, especially as the game came down to the wire. Brooklyn was unable to find separation through the game as the Bucks hung around. Tenacious defense forced the Nets into difficult shots, but Durant still made his attempts look effortless.
The Bucks jumped ahead with just minutes to go, quieting the crowd in Brooklyn. They held a 2-point lead with just six seconds left when the ball was inbounded to Durant in the backcourt. The 7-footer was immediately met by PJ Tucker, but used his frame to create separation before spinning around for a deep shot.
KD hit nothing but net as the shot clock expired, but it was ruled a 2-point field goal as his foot barely touched the three-point line. Still, the miraculous shot leveled the game at 109 with 1 second remaining. Antetokounmpo’s contested game-winner came nowhere close and the game went to overtime.
The extra period did not fare well for the Nets, as they scored just two points. Bruce Brown hit a floater for a 111-109 Brooklyn lead, but the Bucks finally answered a few minutes later to tie it again. With under a minute left, a long rebound fell right to Joe Harris for a wide open three with a chance to go ahead for good. The crowd braced for the shot, hoping he’d end his cold spell. Instead Harris’ three clanged off the rim, and Milwaukee took the lead on the other end.
On the last play of the game, Durant found himself again with the ball at the top of the key. His second turnaround shot came up short and the final seconds expired, unable to recreate his magic from the 4th quarter. Milwaukee went on to win 115-111, advancing to the Conference Finals.
Durant finished with 48 points, setting a NBA record for points in a Game 7. Antetokounmpo finished with a series-high 40 points, powering the Bucks forward. Both played over 50 minutes in the epic series finale.
For Brooklyn, a remarkable season is boiling down to a list of what-ifs. What if Kyrie stays healthy? What if Harden returns at full strength? What if Joe Harris hit his three-point shot? What if Durant wore one shoe size smaller? The questions can go on forever, but the fact remains that this is just the beginning for Brooklyn.
The Nets are far from the only top team to bow out early. The defending champion Lakers fell in the 1st round, the #1 overall seeded Jazz lost in the 2nd round, and the East’s top-seeded 76ers were upset by the Hawks on Sunday.
The Nets were also not the only team to deal with tough injuries. This year a record number of all-stars missed playoff games, with stars like LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Jaylen Brown, Kawhi Leonard, and Donovan Mitchell all sidelined for at least one game. The injuries may be a symptom of the short offseason and crammed schedule, which will be something to watch as the league prepares for the 2021-22 season.
The playoffs had a handful of fun narratives, with many hoping to see the Nets matchup against Los Angeles, face off against Philly, or even take on their crosstown rival Knicks. Instead, these contests will have to wait, hopefully to come next postseason.
The Nets aren’t done after the disappointing series. They still have their core together and are ready to improve. Before this year’s postseason wraps up, the Nets will already be favored for next year’s championship. For now, it’s all about making the adjustments necessary to bring home the first title in franchise history.

Annette Bakker: Pandemic Silver Lining for Health Care Deliver

COVID-19 transformed how Americans get health care.
Before the pandemic, when people felt sick, they went through a familiar drill: make an appointment, drive to the doctor’s, and all too often, wait. But as health-care providers reduced in-person visits during the pandemic, all that changed.
By May 2020, nearly 50 percent of patients sought care remotely via phone or video appointments with their doctors, up from just 11 percent in 2019. Almost 80 percent of Americans now say they’re interested in virtual visits, according to a survey by McKinsey & Company.
The transformation goes beyond telehealth, though, to include more use of online portals, digital medical devices, and in-home treatment. Collectively, these changes are accelerating a shift towards “patient-directed care.”
Previously, doctors acted as the final arbiters of what patients needed, but now doctors and patients collaborate to make decisions. It’s up to lawmakers, regulators, healthcare professionals, and patients themselves to ensure these positive changes last long after COVID-19 recedes.
The potential ramifications of this shift are enormous.
In a 2018 survey published in JMIR Medical Informatics, 88 percent of patients said telehealth had saved them at least one hour per appointment, and 41 percent said it saved more than three hours.
Telehealth is also considerably less expensive. An in-person doctor’s visit costs $146, on average, while the average phone or video consultation costs $79.
Meanwhile, COVID-19 has ramped up the use of digital monitoring technology, for instance, by using cell phone data on patient whereabouts, provided with permission, to better understand the disease.
The need to stay home has also encouraged patients to use online portals for tasks like ordering prescriptions and reviewing their own lab results.
For example, the University of Southern California’s Keck Medicine ran a pilot study in which it provided lung transplant patients with a tablet and a bluetooth-enabled device that detects signs of organ rejection.
The device measured stats on blood pressure, heart rate, and lung health, which were shared with doctors in real time. Patients with the monitoring kit had 44 percent fewer hospital readmissions than a control group, and spent 54 fewer days in the hospital when they were readmitted.
COVID-19 has also sped up a trend towards not just diagnosis, but actual treatment outside of traditional settings. Spurred on by the pandemic, the non-profit healthcare system Intermountain Healthcare is now launching an at-home bone marrow transplant program.
Patients can only benefit from these exciting developments if we make sure they last. When the pandemic first started, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services relaxed restrictions on telehealth.
These rule changes were originally only meant to last through the pandemic. But patients, providers, and advocacy organizations are asking officials to make them permanent. And CMS is already making some changes permanent.
And now that patients are in the driver’s seat, we’ll need to make sure they have the right directions. Because of hospital restrictions due to COVID-19, patients are struggling to meet the requirements for accessing treatment.
Organizations such as the Children’s Tumor Foundation would like to assist by telling patients exactly what they need to do before they can get a drug, whether that’s simply getting their blood pressure checked or undergoing more complicated exams.
COVID-19 has taken a terrible toll, but it’s also bringing the future closer, empowering patients to take greater control of their care. We are all ready to bid the virus farewell, but should embrace the positive change it has brought.

Annette Bakker is president of the Children’s Tumor Foundation.

Councilman Daniel Dromm: Don’t Forget the ‘I’ in LGBTQIA+

I founded Queens Pride 29 years ago to be a welcoming space for all the borough’s diverse communities. Through the years, I excitedly watched as this colorful celebration, with a serious political message, grew.
It seems every country is now represented. The transgender presence, always there from the beginning, is ubiquitous at this point.
Many others of all stripes flock to an event that is grounded in family, friends, and neighbors, not corporations. And, of course, so many straight allies have come to stand with us, which always makes me swell with emotion.
If asked to distill the essence of Pride, I would say it is about creating a home for all who do not conform to rigid societal notions of gender and sexuality. One group is taking this a step further and challenging the idea of what “normal” bodies should look like: the intersex community.
“Intersex” is an umbrella term for differences in sex traits or reproductive anatomy. Intersex people are born with these differences or develop them in childhood.
There are many possible differences in genitalia, hormones, internal anatomy, or chromosomes, compared to the usual two ways that human bodies develop. According to the United Nations, up to 1.7 percent of the world population are born with intersex traits.
Medical professionals often encourage parents and guardians to agree to procedures to treat intersex traits and variations in sex characteristics, even when such procedures are medically unnecessary.
Despite the prevalence of these violations of basic human rights, there is no federal or state law prohibiting such procedures. Much of the work of the intersex community is aimed at ensuring decisions around intersex bodies are based on informed consent and self-determination, principals that should be very familiar to LGBTQIA+ and other liberation movements.
New York City has been leading the way in seeking justice for the intersex community. In April of this year, the City Council passed my legislation requiring the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to conduct a public information and outreach campaign regarding medically unnecessary treatments on individuals born with intersex traits or variations in sex characteristics.
Most notably, the input of members of the intersex community will play a key role in the development of this program. With proper information, New Yorkers will now be more likely to understand the adverse effects of coercive “normalizing” medical interventions.
Prompted by this legislation and the work of advocates, NYC Health + Hospitals has decided to end the practice of medically unnecessary surgeries on children with intersex traits. Sadly, other prominent institutions, including Weill Cornell, still prey upon the unfounded fears of parents and guardians in pursuit of lucrative yet unethical practices.
I applaud this tremendous step forward and hope that it will encourage private hospitals in the city to follow suit.
We cannot as an LGBTQIA+ movement, or as a society for that matter, say that we respect the right to bodily integrity and the foundational concept of consent yet ignore the injustices perpetrated by much of the medical establishment against our intersex siblings.
So let’s celebrate the “I” this Pride Month and commit to ending this particularly insidious form of violence!
To learn more about the intersex community and find out how you can help, visit interactadvocates.org.

Councilman Daniel Dromm represents Jackson Heights in the City Council.

Community Board 7 is on a slippery slope.

Community Board 7 is on a slippery slope.
Board members across the city are appointed to two-year terms by their respective borough presidents. At the end of the term their service is evaluated, and they are either dismissed or reappointed.
There has been concerted effort over the past couple of years to diversify the boards to make them more representative of the communities they represent.
Critics of the advisory boards say they are made up predominately of people who have served for decades and lost their zest for community service, but don’t want to give up their post.
John Choe was reappointed to CB7 in March of 2021 by Queens Borough President Donovan Richards. This did not sit well with board leadership.
They have their legitimate and illegitimate grievances with Choe. The illegitimate being that he is too critical of board leadership. Boo-hoo.
The legitimate is that he solicited CB7 members for campaign donations (he ran for a City Council post this year). Choe says it was a mistake, that he simply sent a mass email to thousands of contacts that included board members.
Easily corrected: just don’t take donations from board members.
But more than likely, this is about Choe repeatedly calling attention to the fact that vice chair and Land Use Committee chair Chuck Apelian also hires himself out as a land use consultant to developers with projects before the board.
Apelian says it’s not a problem because he recuses himself from the board vote on those projects. Technically true, but hogwash.
But putting all of that aside, CB7 has now started the process to remove Choe from the board on their own despite his reappointment by the borough president.
A special committee, appointed by the board chair, will be convened to make a recommendation to the full board. We’re pretty sure we know what that recommendation will be.
Choe would by removed by a simple majority vote, but we’re pretty sure the margin will be bigger than that. What board member is going to vote against the wishes of the board leadership if they truly do enjoy serving on the board and hope to have any sort of influence over business before the board in the future.
Vote against the leadership wishes, and the next vote might by on your removal.
Regardless of whose side you fall on as to the accusations being levied on both sides, it appears CB7 members now serve at the pleasure of a handful of people who have been on the board for decades, which is not how the process works.
Who on CB7 will ever speak up again?
The time to decide if Choe belongs on the board is when his term comes up for renewal in two years, not now because the board leadership can’t take his criticisms.

‘Soul Of The City’ premieres at the Tribeca

DoorDash recently debuted a new short film, Soul of the City, at the Tribeca Festival
The film profiles New York City restaurants and their journey over the past year navigating the challenges of operating a restaurant during a pandemic.
“More than a year after NYC’s dining room shutdowns, over 1,000 restaurants have tragically closed for good, with many continuing to struggle even as the city reopens,” said Katie Daire, senior director of B2B Marketing for DoorDash, said at recent screening and panel discussion.
The restaurants and their owners featured in the film include Maribel Araujo of Caracas Arepa Bar in Williamsburg and Rockaway, Andrew Field of Tacoway Beach in Rockaway, Tren’ness Woods-Black of Sylvia’s in Harlem, Kamal Walters of Peppa’s Jerk Chicken in Flatbush and Crown Heights, and Palma and Nom Wah Tea Parlor in Manhattan.
“Restaurants are the lifeblood of their communities, bringing people together around their tables and in their kitchens,” said Daire. “The film was created to bring communities closer to the restaurants that have worked tirelessly to serve them over the past year and also remind customers to go dine-in again and visit their local restaurants.”
Araujo and Field shared their efforts to open a new delivery and take-out kitchen through DoorDash’s “Reopen for Delivery” initiative.
“DoorDash helped us combine the two concepts out of one kitchen,” said Arujo. “So if you go to DoorDash online you can find Tacoway and Caracas, so you can get tacos and arepas at the same time.”
The restaurants were forced to close two locations due to the pandemic.
“In the restaurant business, adaptability is number one. If a cook that doesn’t show up, it’s not only you doing your job, but it’s doing both jobs now,” said Field. “There’s no planning for that, you have to be able to adapt. The pandemic was a tough test of that.”

Rally to support immigrant voting

A coaltion of immigrant groups last week celebrated securing veto-proof support for a City Council bill that would expand the right to vote in local elections to immigrant New Yorkers with legal permanent residence status or work authorization.
“As we enter the recovery from the pandemic, the City Council must expand the right to vote in municipal elections to enable more New Yorkers to have a say in how their tax dollars are spent, how stimulus funds are distributed, and how new public policies will impact their families and communities,” said Susan Stamler, executive director of United Neighborhood Houses, during a rally in Corona Plaza.
A recent poll showed that 65 percent of likely Democratic Primary voters support the Our City, Our Vote legislation. Advocates called on the City Council to hold a hearing on the bill so it can be brought to the floor for a vote.
“As a lifelong advocate for immigrants and as a representative of one of the largest immigrant communities in the city, I know the incredible impact Intro 1867 will have for countless New Yorkers,” said Councilman Francisco Moya. “I am proud to support a historic piece of legislation that will give a voice to nearly a million New Yorkers.”

Immigrant Welcome Center opens at Borough Hall

Borough President Donovan Richards last week opened an Immigrant Welcome Center at Borough Hall.
The new facility fulfills one of Richards’ campaign promises and offers new resources to the more than one-million immigrants who live throughout the borough.
“Every day, families from all corners of the globe come here to Queens to start businesses in our neighborhoods, send their children to our schools, and be integral parts of our thriving communities,” Richards said. “We could not be prouder to open the first-ever Immigrant Welcome Center at Queens Borough Hall to better serve our immigrant families and provide a vast array of critical services.”
The Immigrant Welcome Center began servicing the community after its soft launch last June, and offers legal assistance, language resources, and a variety of other services to immigrants living in Queens.
Volunteers from a variety of community-based organizations will work and contribute at the welcome center. Partnerships with other service providers, as well as city and state agencies, are expected as the center’s operations expand in the future.
“As the daughter of immigrants from our borough, I know firsthand how crucial it is to provide needed resources to our local immigrant communities, such as legal assistance and referrals to community-based organizations and city services,” said Congresswoman Grace Meng. “We must do all we can to empower immigrants and help them thrive.”
“Immigrant New Yorkers have been resilient leaders throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to be key to New York City’s recovery,” explained May Malik from the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. “We look forward to partnering with the center to empower and advocate for immigrant communities across Queens.”
Daniel Dromm, chair of the City Council Budget Committee, mentioned the possibility of promoting similar initiatives across the city.
“This is a major step forward for our community to receive services by collaborating with well-rounded organizations to easily find assistance, education and emergency relief,” Dromm said. “A center like this will bring transparency, better data, and research on immigrant groups and collective sense of community.”
The Immigrant Welcome Center is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Due to the pandemic, the center is not accepting any walk-in appointments, though there are plans to accept them in the future.
The center can be contacted at (718) 286-0644 or [email protected]

Photos courtesy of Donovan Richards on Flickr

Volunteers beautify Forest Hills complex

Young volunteers and their parents are determined to improve Forest Hills and Rego Park, one flower and bush at a time.
On June 18, approximately 50 volunteers helped landscape The Howard Apartments, a complex with large lawns and curved paths at at 66th Road and 102nd Street, reviving the concept of the community garden, which was once prevalent in the neighborhood.
“Young people in our community proved that civic pride is not passé,” said Elsie Stark, board president of The Howard Apartments. “After a dark year of COVID-19, these flowers really brighten up our spirits.”
Students will receive service credit, and come from JHS 157, PS 196, 144, 101, and 303, Forest Hills High School, and the Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School.
Wendy Medina attended with her nine-year-old daughter, Lexa Ocasio.
“The part I loved the most was when a woman who lived at The Howard Apartments thanked me and mentioned how happy the flowers made her feel,” said Medina. “It was fun and exciting to see the beautiful flowers and meet so many new people.”
“Volunteering makes you realize how lucky we are to be able to give back,” said Ocasio. “After Hurricane Sandy, my family and I drove around Howard Beach giving out water. During the holidays, we buy hot food and feed the homeless.”
Evan Yee, 16, explained that it felt good to participate in an event people can admire and feel good about.
“It feels good to accomplish something,” he said. “Maybe we can get a donation truck and gather things people were going to throw out and give them to the needy. I see so many items go to waste.”
“Volunteers outnumbered the plants, which spoke a lot to the community’s willingness,” said his mother, Amyrose Yee. “I was very thankful the kids had a chance to help. Greening opportunities remind people of outdoor beauty and to respect the land and greenery within a concrete jungle.”
The community gardening initiative was founded by this columnist in partnership with members of the Facebook groups “Rego-Forest Preservation Council” and “Forest Hills, Rego Park, Kew Gardens – Our Communities.” It was supported by The Home Depot in Glendale.
“When you do things that impact the community and leave a lasting positive change, it changes you personally,” said operations manager Christina Strongilos. “We are honored to help as a partner to beautify and unite our community.”
Consuelo Garcia attended with her seven-year-old son Manuel López-Garcia and her ten-year-old daughter Consuelo López-Garcia.
“It felt exciting to volunteer at the gardening event,” she said. “It is very important to volunteer because it helps our community in many ways.”
It was the first time Oi Shan-Chi volunteered with her children, eight-year-old Logan Fung and six-year-old Katie.
“It feels great to give back and work with others to beautify our community,” she said. “Children need to know that they have the power to improve our community, and if everyone does a little weekly, the world will be better.”

Volunteers will be at the 66th Road Community Garden on June 25 at 3:30 p.m. To volunteer, email [email protected]edger.com.

Rally for a Makeover at Mafera Park

Mafera Park’s makeover is underway.
A new area designated for skateboarders and an official dog run are among the possibilities elected officials offered when they met with concerned residents, parents and homeowners last week to assess the need and cost for upgrading the Ridgewood green space.
“The park needs to be redone, but there are a number of things to consider,” said Councilman Robert Holden, who was joined at the Shaler Avenue site by representatives from the offices of Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan, Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi and State Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr.
“We need to start with the scope of the community’s wants and come up with a plan that will be done in phases,” Holden added.
The Friends of Mafera Park, a group of nearly 100 parents, say the space is no longer safe for their children. Park goers have been complaining about broken equipment, cracked pavement, unsanitary conditions, and the need for an official dog run for several years.
“We had a lot of issues with this park and it seems every other park gets attention” said Marta Martinez, a local mother of two who founded the parent group in 2016.
Martinez said they had the attention of then-councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, but potential funds were shifted elsewhere when she was voted out of office.
“We have restarted the conversation that will hopefully result in a safe, clean environment for our children and residents,” said Connie Altamirano, a community activist who joined the movement to better the neighborhood park.
Community Board 5 district manager Gary Giordano said the price tag for immediate repairs to torn playground padding and the removal of graffiti are nominal, but larger-scale projects that require ripping up the surface can cost tens of millions of dollars.
“Everything is obscenely expensive,” admits Holden, who noted that turf replacement for a 90-foot baseball diamond at Juniper Valley Park in Middle Village was recently estimated at $14 million – a fraction of the cost to replace the astroturf on Mafera’s football field.
“I can fund what I can for this park within reason, but an agreement will have to be worked out with other officials like the borough president,” he added.
That said, Holden acknowledged the need for the same type of amenities at Mafera that other parks in the district already have.
“I think there is room here for a new skatepark, like the one in Forest Park, which is very popular,” he said. “And we can fund the dog run as well.”
Once complete, the park will require volunteers to take care of it, he added.
“We had a group of 75 volunteers who adopted Juniper Valley Park after it was renovated,” he said. “They kept up with the maintenance because the Parks Department simply doesn’t have the staff.”
Ridgewood resident Carol-Ann Kurdziel said she and others have been maintaining the unofficial dog run that currently occupies an abandoned garden next to the park playground.
“We have already built an amazing community of dog owners here and have installed chicken wire, screening and solar lights,” she said. “But it’s something we are hoping the city will now fund.”
The location of the dog run, however, remains a point of contention for some parents and residents, who say it’s too close to the children’s swings and nearby homes.
“There will need to be compromise because no one is going to agree on everything,” Holden stressed, “which is why it’s important to get input from everyone involved.”
To that end, Giordano has committed to work with Linda Byszynski, who heads The Friends of Mafera Park, and other community stakeholders to prioritize and price the repairs and potential upgrades.
“We are realistic, we don’t think that one person is going to create a miracle,” said Byszynski. “It’s going to take a big community effort to get this park fixed. But we’re ready.”

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