Villager photo by Isaac Rosenthal
Children getting swing rides in one of the play areas in Union Square Park.
Unity on renaming Union Square Park playground for Evelyn Strouse
By Albert Amateau
The Union Square Partnership, sponsor of the redesign of the north end of Union Square Park, has urged the Department of Parks and Recreation to name the new playground currently under construction in honor of Evelyn Strouse, who died in January at the age of 92.
In a March 23 letter to Parks Com-missioner Adrian Benepe, Jennifer Falk, executive director of the Partnership — a business improvement district, or BID — said, “For her years of work in the Union Square community and in particular for her role in bringing the new playground into existence, the Union Square Partnership strongly urges the Parks Department to dedicate the new playground in Evelyn Strouse’s name.”
Falk noted in her letter that by the 1990s the existing play areas in the park were too small, dilapidated and generally inadequate.
“Evelyn immediately took up the cause and championed a new design, working with a landscape architect and bringing numerous stakeholders together to move the project forward in its early stages,” Falk said.
Benepe told The Villager last week that naming the new playground after Evelyn Strouse was assured.
“It’s an idea a lot of people have been talking about,” the commissioner said. “City Councilmember Rosie Mendez; Jim Gabbe, president of the Partnership; and members of the Union Square Community Coalition have been making the same suggestion.”
Benepe noted that he named Strouse an honorary Union Square Park warden for 2003 in recognition of her work and advocacy for the park. Recalling the park’s two tiny playgrounds before the reconstruction, Benepe said, “Evelyn worked day in and day out to make sure the redesigned park would be better for children.”
The reconstruction of the north end of the park is 50 percent complete, and Benepe said the dedication of the playground, which is three times the size of the previous one, would take place at the official opening of the new north end in the autumn of this year.
Jim Gabbe, chairperson of the Union Square Partnership’s board of directors, recalled that he worked with Evelyn Strouse when she was a member of Community Board 5.
“She was a real community maven and always put the interests of the community first,” Gabbe said. “When there were differences, and there always were, she was able to sit down and talk. She gained the respect of people of all different points of view.”