By Patricia Adams
Members of the Howard Beach community gathered in large numbers on Friday afternoon at a ribbon cutting ceremony for the newly renovated playground at P.S. / M.S. 207.
So after the conversation, DeBlasio and the Anneco family decided to approach Joe Addabbo, the area’s city councilman at the time. “When my daughter passed away we wanted to do something special to mark her memory,” said Joe Anneco. “We went to see Joe and he thought it was a great idea right away.” Addabbo promised to do what he could to secure funding and get the project rolling.
Addabbo secured funding for the park, a hefty $1.7 million dollars, and a community committee was formed to work in conjunction with the city Parks Department. As a result, the project that started as a family’s dream was underway for the entire community’s benefit.
According to DeBlasio, the project was especially rewarding to work on because it was a total team effort. “The committee, and the Parks Department, especially Steve Whitesell, and everyone involved in this worked so closely together that it made the experience that much more wonderful.” DeBlasio credits Addabbo for starting the project and current Councilman Eric Ulrich for seeing it through.
Even students at the school had an actual hand in planning out the park’s design. And on Friday afternoon the smiles and nods of approval put the final seal on the long awaited opening.
Joe Annecco says the feeling about the new park is indescribable. “I can’t even tell you what it’s like. I remember how Jolie loved to come here to pick up her brother and sister. Now she has her own special spot in the place she loved so much.”
And now, the sister that Jolie never knew, 2-year-old Payton, will forever be reminded of her sister while at the park she has come to love the same way. “We always sit on this bench and eat lunch here,” recalls Annecco, standing in front of the memorial plaque and tree planted in memory of Jolie. “We picked this spot to sit in all the time and never knew this would be where they would put the plaque and the tree.”
Then Joe Annecco smiles, “I guess that’s a sign.”