A beloved community park in Huntington Station that fell on hard times is getting an upgrade, thanks to three childhood friends.
Alfred J. Walker Memorial Park on West 11th Street was a source of fun, respite and rejuvenation for Kenny Charles, Amaru Jones and Randy Paul when they were growing up — playing basketball, using the playground equipment and sometimes having family barbecues.
But the park was overlooked and had not been upgraded in decades, town officials said. At some point for the trio, using the park became a second thought and taking to a basketball court in other parts of town seemed like a better idea because those facilities had newer equipment and repaved surfaces.
In 2020, the friends established the Huntington Station-based nonprofit, The Leaders of the New School. They were inspired to give back to the community following the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. Restoring the park — the nucleus of the community — became a focus and they began lobbying town officials to renovate it, and it paid off.
“There should be a place for kids in the community to go to, somewhere safe, close by,” said Jones, 24, a Town of Huntington employee and Huntington Station resident. “The park represents the essence of the community.”
A new playground, renovated basketball court and adult exercise equipment are coming to the park, as are a gazebo/shade structure with picnic tables and benches and a marker dedicated to Alfred J. Walker, the park's namesake and longtime volunteer steward before his death in 1972. The plans also include a new parking lot with 10 standard spaces and two for people with disabilities.
The town board has approved up to $1.2 million in bonding for the project. The board will consider a recommendation from the Environmental Open Space Park Fund Advisory Committee to fund about half the cost with EOSPA Open Space Park Improvement funds. Dates to start the renovations are still to be determined.
“We’re really happy the park is getting renovated,” said Walker's son, Alfred M. Walker, of Melville. He said he spent “many happy times" there as a child.
Walker is also a member of the town’s historic designation commission.
Charles, 23, also of Huntington Station, said he time spent on the parks' basketball court as a child and that time helped shape him into the man he is today.
“I went to middle school [and] played on the team there, went to high school and played on the varsity team, and ended up making a banner at the school, and that all started from using the court across from me as an escape,” he said. “Fast forward to now, there certainly are other kids in the community who are in the same situation that I was in as a kid and could use nice courts and equipment.”
Town Supervisor Ed Smyth said upgrading the park is long overdue and that he and the current town board are delivering on a campaign promise “after repeated unfilled promises to the local community.”
Paul, 24, who lives in Brooklyn, said helping giving back to his community drove him to get involved.
“Alfred J. Walker park is a place that we call home, it’s like an ecosystem, it’s the epicenter of our neighborhood,” Paul said. “I’m just happy that we can advocate and lobby to revitalize it to have people come back to our neighborhood.”
- A new playground
- A renovated basketball court
- Adult exercise equipment
- A gazebo/shade structure with picnic tables and benches and a marker dedicated to Alfred J. Walker’s volunteer stewardship of the park.
- A new parking lot with 10 standard parking spaces and 2 accessible for people with disabilities