Northeast Queens commuters might be pulling out their hair over two more years of ongoing construction on the Whitestone Bridge, but for children the important work is nearly complete, thanks to a new playground set to open in early May.
MTA Bridges and Tunnels announced that the playground in Francis Lewis Park will be reborn on better real estate boasting new equipment, just in time for spring.
“We are proud to be part of this close-knit community and work hard to continue to be a good neighbor,” said Ray Webb, the MTA general manager for the bridge. “We hope that the new playground will bring smiles to all who use it for many years to come.”
The playground will be located east of the bocce courts in Francis Lewis Park, a step up from the old location nearly directly under the bridge, according to the MTA.
The site includes new swings, a climbing boulder, sprinkler-like fixtures to douse any nearby children and a sensory play area, where youngsters can investigate different physical phenomena. The amenities might not be as exciting for adults, but new benches that the MTA plans to install might be a good place to sit and view the world.
The concession is part of a $107 million project to widen the Whitestone Bridge over a 3 1/2 year construction period. The extra space will provide room for an emergency lane.
As part of the construction process, the Queens side of the bridge will lose a lane of traffic for a year beginning this summer.
In addition, the northbound 3rd Avenue exit will also be shuttered around the same time, according to the MTA.
The closure will last for two years and traffic attempting to exit the expressway will be routed through local streets, the MTA said.
The two contractors working on the project, E.E. Cruz and Queens’ Tully Construction, will also be responsible for making structural improvements to the support structure of the span, which connects the borough to the Bronx.
Reporter Joe Anuta