WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — For the first time Zead Ramadan can remember, the central lawn in J. Hood Wright Park is green.
Ramadan, a Community Board 12 Parks and Recreation Committee member, grew up playing baseball in the upper Manhattan park, but said the fields were always a sandlot, and never had a sheaf of grass.
"I think I'm the only one in [my] college baseball [team] that didn't play on a grass field," said Ramadan, who was among a half dozen community leaders and dignitaries who turned out for Friday's ribbon cutting for the improved park, which has received $1.75 million in renovations in the past year.
"This is the place in Northern Manhattan that is most close to my heart," he added. “I’m so glad that this park, the place that pretty much raised me," is being improved on.
The money was used to turn the dust bowl that was the hilly middle of the Ft. Washington Avenue and W. 173rd St. park into an emerald oasis, rehabilitate its dog run, and replace the play surface on the playground.
$800,000 went toward landscaping improvements, including hydrology work on the central lawn that turned it green again, as well as renovations to the dog run and the safety surfaces under the playground.
Another $950,000 has been allocated for the imminent rehab of the recreation center, according to the Parks Department. A new boiler and air conditioning is planned, as is the rehab of the historic cupola on top of the building.
Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe was joined by District 10 Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, who allocated most of the city money to pay for the project, and community leaders in cutting a green ribbon to mark the completion of most of the work.
“It is our responsibility as adults that our children have a place to go and play,” said Rodriguez, who attended the event with his daughter, Yarisa, 5, and her mother, Christina Melendez.
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer's office contributed $50,000 to the project.
Rodriguez also promised that a development he championed while campaigning in 2009, an ice rink in Northern Manhattan, would happen, and $1.1 million is waiting to pay for it.
“The money is there,” Rodriguez said. “We’re working to find the best location.”