Tag Archives: Garden School

Queens HS student wins US Congressional Award Gold Medal


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the Garden School

One Queens high school student has stood out from the rest for her dedication to serving the community.

Astoria resident Julia McKenna, a senior at the Garden School in Jackson Heights, was one of 13 New York State students to win the 2014 US Congressional Award Gold Medal.

The Congressional Award, this year handed out by U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley, is given to students who meet goals in community service, personal development, physical fitness, plus exploration and expedition.

Those who are awarded the gold medal are required to have a minimum of 400 hours documented for volunteer service. McKenna managed to log more than 550 hours volunteering at organizations such as the New York Blood Center, Special Olympics, Dellamonica Senior Center, Common Ground Outreach and more.

Along with community service, McKenna is also co-captain of the varsity volleyball and basketball teams and won Academic Honors last year.

According to a statement released by the Garden School, McKenna’s dedication to serving the community “is a great example of Garden’s mission of ‘social involvement’ in action and we could not be more proud of her.”

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Jackson Heights park renamed after young advocate gone too soon


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirano

Although he was taken at a young age, Rory Staunton’s dedication, integrity and innocence will continue to live on through a park he fought to save.

Family, friends, students, local elected officials and Parks Department representatives gathered on Monday in Jackson Heights to unveil the renaming of the acquired Parks Department athletic field at the Garden School as “Rory Staunton Field.”

“This is a special day for us because we see Rory’s dream come true,” said Ciaran Staunton, Rory’s father.

“We as a family believe that the Jackson Heights community deserved this field as an open space. Rory was keenly aware of his civic responsibility. He was a true leader. Rory’s favorite poem was a poem by Robert Frost, ‘The Road Not Taken.’ The road not taken, this was the life that Rory lived. True leadership demands inspiration, and in Rory many people found inspiration to do good things.”

The 12-year-old lost his life last April due to sepsis poisoning after falling while playing basketball in his school’s gym. What doctors initially believed to be a minor wound became infected and ultimately led to his death.

Rory was a student at the Garden School, located at 33-16 79th Street. Although he lived in Sunnyside with his father, mother Orlaith and sister Kathleen, he loved to help out in the Jackson Heights community. He enjoyed working side-by-side with his dad, a board member of the Garden School who was one of the main individuals who pushed for the field to be used as a park instead of developing it into a 10-story apartment building.

“After every board meeting I would come home and there would be a question-and-answer,” said Staunton. “And Rory would say ‘you cannot let it go dad, you gotta stick with it.’”

Rory Staunton (File photo)

In February, NYC Parks and the NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Service completed the $6 million acquisition of the 24,600-square-foot asphalt play yard owned by the Garden School.

The proposal of the property’s renaming was inspired by the hard work Rory and his father did to help save the greenspace for future generations.

“They [the Stauntons] were involved with this from the start, all of them, pushing to make it a reality,” said Dudley Stewart, president of the Jackson Heights Green Alliance. “Even when things looked most bleak, they were insistent that it could happen, that it would happen and it did happen. This is why we requested the new park be named after Rory, there could not be a more fitting memorial for him and today we have insured that his name will never be forgotten.”

Rory Staunton Field and Travers Park, located across the street, will undergo a $3.7 million renovation through funding from Councilmember Daniel Dromm and Borough President Helen Marshall.

Since their son’s passing, the Staunton family has worked hard to raise awareness of sepsis. Governor Andrew Cuomo dubbed legislation to fight sepsis, “Rory’s Regulations.” On Tuesday, September 24, the family also testified against sepsis in the Senate.

“Rory was a passionate advocate of truth, justice and fairness,” said Staunton. “He was and always will be an inspiration to us all. The name of Rory Staunton will shine and the spirit will be over this park, and this park will be one of everyone enjoying themselves, free of all kinds of bullying and all kinds of whatever else happens because his spirit will see to it.”

 

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Jackson Heights park to be renamed in tribute to beloved student


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Ciaran and Orlaith Staunton

Those who knew Rory Staunton say it would be a fitting tribute.

The newly-acquired Parks Department property at the Garden School athletic field in Jackson Heights may soon bear his name. The 12-year-old lost his life last April due to sepsis poisoning after falling while playing basketball in his school’s gym. What doctors believed to be a minor wound later became infected and led to his death.

Rory was a student at the Garden School. Although he lived in Sunnyside with his father Ciaran, mother Orlaith and sister Kathleen, he loved to help out in the Jackson Heights community. He enjoyed working side by side with his dad, a board member of the Garden School. Ciaran Staunton was one of the main individuals who pushed for the field to be used as a park instead of developing it into a 10-story apartment building.

After hearing from the Jackson Heights Green Alliance, the Jackson Heights Beautification Group, Councilmember Daniel Dromm and other elected officials, Community Board 3 on April 18 voted unanimously to have the field renamed after Rory.

The proposal was inspired by the hard work the boy and his father did to help save the park for future generations.

“We as a group felt it was fitting to name it after Rory,” said Dudley Stewart, president of the Jackson Heights Green Alliance. “The community board vote was a huge relief. It was great to recognize that the community stands behind this proposal. We felt really gratified and very happy.”

Ciaran Staunton said his son helped draw up the plans for the park before he passed away. The father added that Rory was “very green” and always tried to do what was right.

“Our family is very honored,” he said. “It’s a comforting feeling they [children] will be playing in Rory Staunton field for their whole lives.”

Ciaran Staunton recalled an invitation to the White House for St. Patrick’s Day last year. He took his son, who was inspired by the trip to the president’s home.

“He was eyeing the office for himself,” Staunton said.

Since the boy’s passing, the Staunton family has worked hard to raise awareness of sepsis. Governor Andrew Cuomo dubbed legislation to fight sepsis Rory’s Regulations.

Even with all the support they have received for renaming the park, the Stauntons still have to wait for the Parks Department to give official approval.

“It would be fit to honor him in such a way,” said Dromm. “He was only 12 years old [but] had a tremendous impact on the community.”

The Parks Department did not respond to calls as of press time.

 

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Jackson Heights to get new park space


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

Just in time for spring, Jackson Heights residents have been given new park space to enjoy.

Last March, the city announced its purchase of the athletic field at the Garden School, a private learning facility, which, combined with Travers Park, located across the street from the school, will offer the community a larger recreational space.

“Jackson Heights is one of the most densely-populated and diverse neighborhoods in New York City, and one most in need of parkland for its community,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Veronica M. White.

As of last week, NYC Parks and the NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Service had completed the $6 million acquisition of the 24,600-square-foot asphalt play yard owned by the school.

The settlement with the Garden School comes as the city follows its goal of developing original methods to increase residents’ access to neighborhood open spaces. As of 2007, 229 “Schoolyards to Playgrounds” sites have been opened to the public as part of the Bloomberg administration’s PlaNYC initiative. Yet, this is the first time the city has created an agreement with a private school.

“Working with the city was terrific,” said Arthur Gruen, president of the Board of Trustees, and Richard Marotta, headmaster of the Garden School. “We are very pleased to join with our community in establishing this permanent open space for our Garden School family and for all of our neighbors.”

The new parkland will be available for public use outside school hours, including weekend and summer months, with the ball field open for baseball and softball leagues during these times.

“Every New Yorker should have access to adequate parks and recreational opportunities,” said Councilmember Daniel Dromm. “The residents of Jackson Heights deserve this.”

As part of the agreement, the Garden School is receiving a five-year lease agreement for the exclusive use of the property during the school year between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. At all other times, NYC Parks will manage the site as a public park.

NYC Parks plans to install a property line fence separating the site being acquired from the remaining Garden School property. A final design for the property will be developed and once completed, will be accessible to the public from 78th to 79th Streets.

 

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Debate League comes to Queens


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Photos Courtesy Simon Cousins

Around 300 students, parents and teachers from across the city gathered at the Garden School in Jackson Heights this past weekend to watch lively middle school students debate a range of topics during the Metropolitan Debate League’s most recent competition.

The debate league, which draws participating teams from all types of schools in the Metropolitan area, had not previously held a competition in Queens.
“We aim to give students the tools to analyze their own world, engage with peers they might not otherwise meet, and, through friendly competition, allow them to survey and level their own playing field,” said Rhiannon Bettivia, president and co-founder of the Metropolitan Debate League.

Garden School coaches Kevin Burgoyne and Rich Kruczek said that the goal of hosting the event was to show appreciation for the Metropolitan Debate League and the opportunities it has given their students. The school provided refreshments throughout the day, sandwiches for lunch, and coffee, tea, and Wi-Fi access for all. “Even though we are only in our first year with the Metropolitan Debate League, we wanted to respond to the warm welcome that we had received by providing a host site for the group,” said the Garden School’s Headmaster, Richard Marotta, Ph.D. “It was very exciting for us to host, since it allowed more of our own families and teachers to attend and get a flavor of what debate is and what it means to the students.”

The students spent the day debating five topics, including financial literacy classes in public schools, organ donations, state primary election participation, debate league gender quotas, and United States trade regulations. The teams were given 15 minutes to prepare speeches on the topics before each debate. The day culminated in an awards ceremony honoring the top 30 speakers and the top 10 teams.

Among those awards, Garden School won two Top 10 Individual Speaker awards out of about 100 debaters, one Top 10 Team Award out of about 30 teams, and two Top 30 Individual Speaker Awards.

“We don’t just argue in a room. When we debate, we are learning valuable life skills,” said Garden School debate team member Daphne Davis.

 

Garden school lot to become green space


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Councilmember Daniel Dromm

Jackson Heights recently received the best medicine to cure its congestion – open space.

The city announced its long-awaited purchase of the Garden School’s athletic field on March 21, providing the community – which has one of the worst ratios of persons-to-park-space in the five boroughs – with much needed recreational room.

“This is a great deal for both the residents of Jackson Heights and the Garden School,” said Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson. “All sides worked together to ensure that this land will be preserved as open space that both neighborhood residents and the school can use.”

Combined with Travers Park, located across the street from the Garden School on 78th Street between 34th Avenue and Northern Boulevard, the athletic field will supply Jackson Heights with a sublime duo of adjacent destinations.

“Every New Yorker should have access to adequate parks and recreational opportunities, and Jackson Heights was in dire need of additional park space,” said Councilmember Daniel Dromm, who championed the sale. “The opportunity to preserve this open space and expand Travers Park was simply too great to pass up. The residents of our neighborhood deserve this.”

The lot, which is 25,000-square-feet, was put up for sale over a year ago by the cash-strapped Garden School. Community residents were peeved when the private school rejected an offer from the city last year in favor of holding out for a private developer who could potentially pay more quickly.

The land was ultimately purchased by the city for $6 million – $4 million of which was secured by Dromm, combined with $1 million contributions from both Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Borough President Helen Marshall. Under the terms of the agreement, the Garden School will also receive $800,000 in interest-free bridge loans from the J. M. Kaplan Fund and The Fund for the City of New York until they receive the payment.

“This was a wonderful collaboration between the city, community members and our private school,” said Garden School Headmaster Dr. Richard Marotta. “Everyone wins with this arrangement and it is a perfect example of what can happen when the public and private sectors work together.”

The field will be open to the public on weeknights and weekends, while the school will have exclusive rights to the space from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays. Dromm and community advocates have also received approval from Community Board 3 to permanently close the section of 78th Street slotted between the neighboring fields, creating a public play street for residents.

Park advocates, such as the Jackson Heights Green Alliance, will attempt to secure additional funding to perform renovations on the field. The lot will be opened to the public once the restorations are completed, which will not be for over a year.

“Getting the whole community involved is what made this park expansion a reality. Thousands of Jackson Heights residents banded together to encourage the Garden School to sell this land to the city,” said Will Sweeney of the Jackson Heights Green Alliance. “We are ecstatic to be getting more parkland in our neighborhood. This cherished space will be enjoyed by generations of Jackson Heights residents and families to come.”

Jackson Heights schoolyard is 200th to become playground


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Renderings Courtesy of the Parks Department

One of the city’s most congested communities is getting a little extra room to breathe.

Schoolyards at P.S. 69 and I.S. 145 in Jackson Heights are being transformed into student-designed playgrounds that will be open to the public on weekdays after school until dusk and on weekends from 8 a.m. to dusk.

The renovations aim to provide the neighborhood with more open space, answering the calls from community leaders and local elected officials.

“My council district ranks 50 out of 51 districts in the city with regards to park space,” said Councilmember Daniel Dromm. “Jackson Heights is the second neediest district in terms of park space, according to the New Yorkers for Parks Survey. This transition will create new, open space for people to use for recreational activities, to sit and relax and enjoy a newspaper or just to take in some fresh air, and it provides my constitutions with something they have been telling me they want desperately –  open space and green space.”

The councilmember believes the additional park space will also foster growth in Jackson Heights and encourage youthful visitors and prospective residents to enter the community.

“We have seen an influx of young families moving into the neighborhood, and open park space and good schools are the two things these families are most looking for,” Dromm said. “The open spaces will make this a great place to raise your kids. The added benefit is that parks raise property value and makes the neighborhood more desirable to people looking to purchase a new home. These playgrounds will contribute to the desirability of living in Jackson Heights.”

The renovations were made as part of PlaNYC’s Schoolyards to Playgrounds program, which aims to ensure all New Yorkers live within a 10 minute walk of a park or playground. The city has invested $87.6 million to convert approximately 230 schoolyards into playgrounds by 2013.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg was joined by Parks and Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott and Jackson Heights elected officials on November 30 at the recently-completed playground at P.S. 69, located at 77-02 37th Avenue, to announce that the school was the 200th member of the Schoolyards to Playgrounds program.

“Since 2002, our administration has been committed to creating new public parks and new open spaces of every kind,” said Bloomberg. “PlaNYC, our long-term sustainability agenda, identified public schoolyards that could be opened up year-round in neighborhoods most in need of open space. Despite the economic downturn, we’ve maintained our commitment to this innovative program and we are delivering on our promise. In a time of tight budgets, our schoolyards represent a great opportunity for transforming existing, underused resources into something we can all enjoy.”

According to a Parks Department spokesperson, schools selected for the Schoolyards to Playgrounds initiative are usually in underserved neighborhoods. I.S. 145’s playground, located at 33-34 80th Street, is scheduled for completion during the summer of 2012. Both the P.S. 69 and I.S. 145 projects cost approximately $300,000, according to the source.

As part of the initiative, representatives from the Trust for Public Land, a non-profit organization and the city’s premier partner in the program, visit the schools to gather the opinions and ideas of community members, faculty and students to incorporate into the designs of the parks.

Dromm says he hopes the city can also complete the purchase of the roughly 29,000-square-feet of  park land beside the Garden School, located at 33-16 79th Street – across the street from Jackson Heights’ Travers Park. According to the councilmember, who has contributed $5 million in funding to the project, the mayor’s office is currently working to acquire the land.

The Jackson Heights Beautification Group is facilitating the discussions between the Garden School and the city, in hopes that the deal can benefit the cash-strapped school by providing an influx of capital.

“This would be a win, win, win for the Garden School, Parks Department and Jackson Heights,” said Edwin Westely, president of the Jackson Heights Beautification Group, who believes the purchase of the land imminent. “Jackson Heights gets more open space, the Parks Department would get more parks land and the school will be helped out with funds.”