Jamaica’s “town square” is about to get a much-needed makeover.
The Parks Department along with local elected officials ceremonially broke ground Monday on a $2.2 million renovation of Rufus King Park located in an area bounded by Jamaica and 89th avenues between 150th and 153rd streets.
At the heart of the project is reconstruction of the park’s gazebo, which will include a new roof, handrails, steps and a brick platform. The gazebo’s electrical system will also be enhanced to better accommodate various events.
The Parks Department will also resurface and reconfigure the green space’s asphalt pathways to improve pedestrian circulation. New trees and shrubs will be planted throughout the park, and the agency will also create a new lawn both for leisure and athletic activity.
Many of those funding the Rufus King Park project, including Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and City Councilman Rory Lancman, helped Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, Community Board 12 District Manager Yvonne Reddick and others officially launch the renovation’s start Monday.
“Thanks to the generous funding allocated by the City Council, the Borough President’s office, Jamaica’s residents will be able to enjoy a renovated and revitalized open space with a new gazebo that will serve as a beautiful gathering place for this diverse neighborhood,” Silver said.
“Rufus King Park is like the town square of Jamaica, a central point for anyone of the vibrant and diverse community to enjoy,” Katz added. “The investment of public funds into this neighborhood treasure is very much a part of the Jamaica Now Action plan fully underway, a 21-point strategic plan intended to revitalize Jamaica into a thriving residential neighborhood.”
The 11-acre park was once part of the estate of Rufus King, a colonial lawyer, abolitionist and statesman who was among the signers of the Constitution. The Village of Jamaica purchased King Manor and surrounding land in 1896 for $50,000; the site was subsequently acquired by the City of New York two years later as Jamaica became part of the city.
King Manor stands today not only as a colonial museum, but also for various cultural events attended by thousands of people annually. The house is an official city landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Rufus King Park’s last major renovation occurred between 1991 and 1993, when the Parks Department shifted the bandstand, rebuilt the park house, installed new paths and redistributed recreational facilities. Additional work took place in 1996-97 when the city installed a new steel picket fence around King Manor.
The latest renovation is scheduled to be completed by the spring of 2016.