Larry Gore at Mirschel Park in the Village of Hempstead...

Larry Gore at Mirschel Park in the Village of Hempstead on Monday. Gore is a local coach and school bus driver who has advocated for renovating the park. Credit: Howard Simmons

The cracked concrete of the basketball courts, missing swings and glass shards that mix with wood chips under the playground equipment at Mirschel Park in Hempstead Village soon may become a faded memory. 

Village officials unveiled a planned $9 million revamping of the park last month, a project the mayor said should break ground in August — despite funding challenges.

Local coach and school bus driver Larry Gore said he's optimistic that years of pushing for investment in the recreation area are about to pay off. 

Gore, 41, runs a youth basketball tournament, coaches football and mentors young people. He served on a village committee that during the past year has developed plans to rebuild Mirschel Park.

Planned Mirschel Park improvements include:

  • A recreation building with rooftop community garden
  • Pickleball courts
  • A loop path with exercise station

SOURCE: Village of Hempstead

“I grew up here on Terrace Avenue,” Gore said last week of a street around the corner from the park where he said gang activity remains a problem. “ … My vision is that Terrace is not the forgotten community. If people give us a chance, people will see that we can have nice things here like everybody else.”

The conceptual design of the park includes a recreation building with restrooms and an indoor basketball court, an outdoor pavilion, pickleball courts, a splash park, a playground, basketball courts, a fitness path with an exercise station, a picnic area and outdoor seating.

“We will be building at Mirschel Park a state-of-the-art park facility for a community that for so long has been forgotten," Hempstead Village Mayor Waylyn Hobbs Jr. said during a state of the village speech earlier this month.

Renderings of the planned facilities were projected onto a screen behind him as he spoke.

“Our young people at Terrace Avenue deserve better than a couple of basketball courts and some swings,” the mayor added in his address.

Records show in 2020, the village was on the verge of a major capital investment in the park. At a meeting on Aug. 4, 2020, village trustees were scheduled to consider a $7 million bond issue to build an indoor basketball court and community center at the park. But meeting minutes show they didn't vote on the measure.

Hobbs, who was a trustee at the time, said in an interview Monday that trustees backed off then in response to community feedback that residents wanted a comprehensive plan rather than a single building.

That limited plan “didn’t address … the entire needs of that area. They needed more than a building with a gym,” he added.

The mayor said the village's Mirschel Park committee, which was formed in response to community pushback, included residents of Terrace Avenue “so that they would have more input on what would be ideal for that area.”

Hobbs said to get started on the park upgrade, the village has about $900,000 available or pledged for the project that includes funds pledged by local businesses and funds from a community benefits agreement with a developer.

The main funding is expected to come from state and federal grants, according to the mayor, who said village officials applied for the funding but haven't heard back yet about whether the applications were approved.

“We have enough to start the groundbreaking,” Hobbs said in an April 18 interview. “I can begin the work of repairing the basketball courts and putting new pickleball courts in.”

One problem addressed in the plans is the lack of restrooms at the park.

About 45 children who take part in a P.E.A.C.E. Afterschool Program Inc. initiative use Mirschel Park for activities but need to walk about five minutes back to the nonprofit's facilities with staff on bathroom runs, program executive director Fayth Vaughn-Shavuo said.

“You just make the best of what you have and hope for the future,” said Vaughn-Shavuo, who was part of the Mirschel Park committee.

Jeffrey Reynolds, president and CEO of Garden City-based nonprofit Family and Children’s Association, which offers support services to vulnerable people and communities, said in a statement that the park plans could transform the area.

“As we work to strengthen families in the village, a project of this scale can play a pivotal role in community revitalization," Reynolds said. "A renewed park will provide better recreational opportunities for all residents, young people, and families alike, regardless of income or background."

CORRECTION: The first name of Hempstead Village Mayor Waylyn Hobbs Jr. was misspelled in a previous version of this story.

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