NEW YORK—Mayor Michael Bloomberg embarked on the first leg of his farewell tour Tuesday. Brooklyn was the first stop, a borough Bloomberg helped transform during his 12 years in office.
The mayor cut the ribbon on the LeFrak Center, a year-round skating facility inside Prospect Park. During the winter, New Yorkers can lace up their ice skates and during the summer the facility will transform to support roller skating.
The $74 million center came as a result of a public–private partnership. Nearly $54 million came from the public. The rest of the funds, $20 million, came from private donors through the Prospect Park Alliance, with the LeFrak family donating $10 million for maintenance and upkeep.
The 26-acre park is the latest in a series of parks the mayor helped create, clean up, or expand. Since 2002, the Bloomberg administration has redesigned and upgraded 600 parks and recreational facilities in all five boroughs.
Some gained global renown, including the Highline, which transformed an old elevated railroad track on Manhattan’s West Side. another famous park is Brooklyn Bridge Park, which lies at the foot of the bridge on the Brooklyn side. The city spent more than $5 billion in capital investments in parks during Bloomberg’s tenure.
“For a big, hustling, bustling city that everyone thinks of as just concrete—exactly the reverse is true,” Bloomberg said.
He added that his administration made a commitment that all New Yorkers live within 10 minutes of a park and now 76 percent of New Yorkers live near a park or playground.
Although Bloomberg is leaving office in two weeks, park projects started during his tenure will continue to open. The Freshkills Park on Staten Island is still under construction, but when it opens, it will be the largest new park to open in the city since the 1800s.
The expansion in Brooklyn alone is impressive with 106 new parks in the borough. The expansion is due in part to major investments by the Bloomberg administration to redevelop Brooklyn’s waterfront and downtown areas, including the construction of the Barclays Center.
“Mr. Brooklyn” himself, Borough President Marty Markowitz, was on hand for the opening of the ice rink Tuesday and bid the mayor a farewell.
“It has been a pleasure to work with you,” Markowitz said. “The highest compliment I can pay another elected official is that you are leaving New York City a better place than when you started.”