Hempstead's Mirschel Park gets new playground

Hempstead residents and the national nonprofit KaBOOM! join forces to build a new playground at Mirschel Park. Videojournalist: Chris Ware (Sept. 14, 2013)

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About 300 volunteers joined forces Saturday to build a new playground at Mirschel Park in Hempstead Village -- a project residents said will target childhood obesity and keep children entertained.

The volunteers, including residents, private company employees, government officials and members of nonprofit youth and business groups, spent the day assembling the brightly colored equipment and moving 43,740 square feet of safety surfacing by hand.

"We've been waiting for this," said Madelon McCullough, founder of I Am Terrace Ave, a community youth group involved in the project. "This means a safe and clean place to play for the kids. It will help combat obesity and also helps mentally because they see the community's renewal."

The new playground on Atlantic Avenue includes a tightrope, various slides and tri-level bars.

"It feels different from the older playground that was dirty and peeling," said Aniya Letlow, 9, who was with her mom, Melody Letlow, 29, of Hempstead, painting wooden flower pots.

The previous playground was more than 20 years old and crumbling, organizers said.

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Washington-based nonprofit KaBOOM! organized the project, and Bridgewater, N.J.-based Amneal Pharmaceuticals funded the renovation and provided 80 volunteers. "More than giving the money, we like to do something you can see built before your eyes," Amneal CEO Chintu Patel said.

The playground, based on drawings created by children in a Design Day event in July, will serve the more than 700 kids in the area, officials said.

"Doing the playground really gives the kids a nice new environment to play in," village Mayor Wayne J. Hall Sr. said. He added that the second phase of the project -- to be done by next summer -- will include installing swings and sprinklers.

A few steps from the park is Terrace Avenue, a six-block area that Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice described in January 2009 as Long Island's most notorious "open-air drug market." As a result, Rice created the Council of Thought and Action.

"This area has always been a high priority for me as a DA," said Rice, who came to help build the playground. "This is what community engagement is about. This is a community that has been reborn."

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