SUNNYSIDE — A Queens playground named for a fallen local war hero is getting a major upgrade this year, including a memorial to honor its namesake as well as other veterans from the community.
The city officially broke ground Friday on a year-long renovation project at L/CPL Thomas P. Noonan Jr. Playground, a park at 47th Avenue and 43rd Street in Sunnyside named for the local Vietnam War veteran.
The $2 million project will bring new play equipment, bike racks and other upgrades to the space, as well as the addition of a granite memorial that will sit at the base of the park's flagpole that will also include biographical information about Noonan, who died in 1969 while trying to rescue wounded members of his company.
"The park clearly has his name on it, but not enough people know who he was or what he did, how he served, when he died," said City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who allocated funding for the renovations.
In addition to the memorial for Noonan, officials are working on plans for a plaque to be displayed in the park that would bear the names of other veterans from the community who served in Vietnam.
Joe Conley, chairman of Community Board 2, said he has long wanted there to be a memorial in Sunnyside to specifically commemorate Vietnam veterans, similar to one near St. Sebastian's parish in Woodside.
"Woodside has its monument, Sunnyside should have one," he said. "We wanted the same thing here."
One of the four names that will be displayed on the plaque is that of Donald Breuer, a Marine who grew up in Sunnyside who was 26 when he was killed in 1972.
His siblings, Jim Breuer and Noreen Haddad, attended the park's groundbreaking ceremony Friday.
"Donnie lived here his whole life," said Breuer, saying they spent much of their childhoods playing on the local playground. "This was our Central Park."
Reconstruction of the playground is expected to take one year, officials said.
When completed, it will feature separate areas for toddlers and for older children, with play equipment like swings, a small rock climbing area and a new rainbow-shaped spray shower to replace the one the playground is known for.
The project will also include new planted areas along Greenpoint Avenue and 43rd Street, new bike racks, benches, paving and fencing, as well as upgrades to the lighting and draining systems.
The playground's handball and basketball courts will also be renovated this summer as part of a separate project, paid for with $200,000 in funding from the Mayor’s Office, according to the Department of Parks and Recreation.