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Playground designed for disabled opens in Old Bethpage

Volunteers from the Junior League of Long Island

Volunteers from the Junior League of Long Island help prepare Haypath Park in Old Bethpage on Saturday, June. 11, 2016. New playground equipment that's accessible to children with disabilities was installed at the park. Photo Credit: James Carbone

A new “inclusive” playground that will allow children with disabilities to play with their friends and siblings opens in Old Bethpage.

The playground at Haypath Park is the first of its kind in Oyster Bay and one of the only ones on Long Island, said Oyster Bay Town board member Rebecca Alesia, who was involved in the playground’s planning.

On Saturday, more than 30 volunteers, mostly Junior League of Long Island members, assembled and installed the new equipment specially designed for children with disabilities. Town employees cemented it into place.

“It’s all sensory-based,” town director of operations Andy Rothstein said of the apparatus.

Children can push buttons to hear musical sounds, speak through a “bullhorn” to communicate across the playground, turn wheels and strum thin bars. The equipment, much of which is metal covered in vinyl, is low enough to accommodate children in wheelchairs.

Near the specialized apparatus is the park’s old playground, including two swing sets that were relocated a few dozen feet away to make way for the new equipment.

Plainview resident Rob Pickus, 47, said the mix of items will allow his disabled son, Noah, 11, to play with his sister and friends.

“He’ll be able to interact a little bit easier and do more with other kids than at a typical park,” Pickus said.

Noah was born with a congenital infection, which led to cerebral palsy on the right side of his body, a cognitive disability and hearing loss, Pickus said.

He can use some typical park items, but not others, and with swings, for example, he has difficulty pumping back and forth, Pickus said.

Pickus sometimes takes Noah a 20-minute drive away to a special-needs playground at Eisenhower Park in East Meadow. But the new, closer playground at Haypath will allow Noah to play with more kids that he knows, he said.

The nonprofit Junior League paid $30,000 for the Haypath equipment, said group president Joel Blainey. Every two years, the organization installs playground equipment on Long Island. Past projects were at nonprofits or schools. This is the first partnership with a town government, Blainey said. The town will maintain the playground.

Rothstein said the collaboration “could be a template” for future public-private projects.

Alesia said the playground is serving a “real community-driven need” in an area known for schools with extensive special-needs services.

“It’s really minimal impact on the existing park, but we’re just adding something wonderful,” she said.

PLAYGROUND PROJECTS

The Junior League of Long Island has donated and created several other playgrounds on Long Island, including:

  • The Head Start program in Patchogue
  • The Hagdorn Little Village School in Seaford
  • The Family Service League in Bay Shore
  • The Manhasset/Great Neck Economic Opportunity Council
  • Park Avenue Memorial Elementary School in Amityville

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