A rendering of Mr. B’s Inclusive Playground planned in Rockville...

A rendering of Mr. B’s Inclusive Playground planned in Rockville Centre. The park, which will be accessible for children with special needs, has received a $550,000 state funding. Credit: Village of Rockville Centre Mayor and Department of Public Works

Groundbreaking for a long-awaited inclusive playground in Rockville Centre is planned for next month, after state funding was secured last week to finish the project.

State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) last week announced the assembly will provide $550,000 to complete Mr. B’s playground and make infrastructure improvements to the surrounding area. Heastie was joined by Assemb. Judy Griffin (D-Rockville Centre) and Rockville Centre Mayor Francis X. Murray at the Rockville Centre Recreation Center on Oceanside Road, where the playground is planned.

“This state funding, in addition to the fundraising done by the community, will make the park here in Rockville Centre accessible for kids with special needs and their families,” Heastie said.

The $1.5 million project will include new ADA-compliant bathrooms and LED lighting.

The playground, named after former recreation center Superintendent Anthony Brunetta, is set to be built on the site of dilapidated basketball and tennis courts.

Murray said a group of Lions Club members came to him in 2015 with the idea to build the playground and the group along with other community organizations started a fundraising effort. 

“This means something to everyone in our village. It means so much to all of us,” Murray said last week. “We really appreciate everyone who made this happen. It's finally going to happen after six years.”

The park will include accessible bathrooms and playground equipment, new walkways wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs, spaced out equipment and planned as far away from train tracks to not disturb children with sensory issues, Griffin said Saturday.

“It’s been an idea for years, and I couldn’t think of a better way to bring this playground home,” Griffin said. “It helps the entire special needs population, which are an underserved community. It’s a community that is really respected and honored and welcome in our community.”

Groundbreaking on the park is planned for mid-August after 400 children finish the summer program at the recreation center. Construction is expected to be completed by fall 2023. The project must still be opened to bids.

Plans for the park, which will be open to all residents with no residency requirement, include a chess and workout area, new water fountains, horseshoe pits and replacing old bathrooms that are in “horrific shape,” Murray said. 

The state funding was supported by fundraising from community groups, including the Rockville Centre Lions Club, the Rockville Centre Little League, the village Police Benevolent Association, private donors and The Tommy Brull Foundation, which raises funds to help people with special needs.

The project has been delayed since 2015, when then-State Sen. Dean Skelos promised $500,000 for the project that was originally planned off Sunrise Highway near Hickey Field. The funding was under scrutiny and tied up after Skelos resigned while facing corruption charges.

State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) secured the Senate funding after taking Skelos' seat while working with the community to continue the project. 

“It’s important to a lot of people that all children have a place to go regardless of their abilities, and it’s something the people of Rockville Centre have dreamed of for a long time,” Kaminsky said Friday.

Rockville Centre accessible Playground 

Groundbreaking: Mid-August

Completion: Fall 2023

Total cost: $1.5 million; project includes new playground equipment, lighting and bathrooms

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