Almost two years after people in Bushwick voted in support of a then-$300,000 project to usu city money to upgrade a dog run at Maria Hernandez Park, plans have now emerged as to what that will look like.

In the time since the 2022 vote — part of the city council’s participatory budgeting program — those plans have also grown considerably, and now will also incorporate renovating the park’s playground. The total budget has ballooned considerably too, to $6.7 million. According to the Parks Department, construction is expected to start late next year and will involve shutting down both the playground and the dog run until it’s finished, which they officially estimate will last until Spring of 2026.

City councilmember Jennifer Gutiérrez, who spearheaded the effort to secure the additional funding for the construction project, claims that it became quickly apparent to her office that the initially allotted $300,000 would not be enough to complete the upgrades she wanted to see in the park.

“Investing in our community’s spaces is investing in our collective well-being,” Gutiérrez told me when asked about the new construction. “I’m happy to have helped allocate funds for this project, and thankful to the community members who voted for it to be funded through participatory budgeting,” she added.

Gutiérrez’s office says they worked with the Parks Department to secure an additional $5.5 million in funds from the City Council during last year’s contentious budget. She then swayed the Parks Department to add $986,000 from its own capital funds.

The $6.7 million project will replace the ground of the dog run with turf and is the run’s first upgrade since it was built in 2012.

The new dog run will purportedly feature new dog-friendly turf, drinking fountains with dog bowls, improved lighting, security fencing and shaded seating, according to these plans.

This will be the dog run’s first upgrade since its completion in 2012. According to the Instagram page of a volunteer community group organized around the dog run, the small dog park has long been susceptible to flooding.

Meanwhile, the playground at Maria Hernandez Park, which was rebuilt in 2007 following its fall into disrepair during the 1990s, will witness a “wholesale transformation” involving new equipment, various “spray play” amenities as well as additional benches and plants. 

The latest slate of construction projects at Maria Hernandez Park closely followed a slew of similar Parks Department renovations of other nearby Brooklyn parks. 

A total of five park spaces in Brooklyn are slated to receive funds through its Community Parks Initiative in 2024 and 2025: Gonzalo Plascencia Playground, Carter G. Woodson Children’s Playground, St. Mark’s Playground, Hattie Carthan Playground and Livonia Park.

And less than a mile from Maria Hernandez Park sits Lewis Playground, situated between Lewis Avenue and Marcus Garvey Boulevard, walking distance from the Myrtle-Broadway station. The Parks Department has already begun work there on a $1.5 million renovation, with a completion date of next January too. 

Lewis Playground is set to receive new play equipment, greenery, game tables, accessibility features and, something that the Parks Department describes as an outdoor classroom with a chalkboard wall.

Update: This story has been corrected to update the expected construction estimates from the Parks Department.

Top image provided by Parks Department.

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