August 2019, Park Connect

Shirley Chisholm State Park

August 2019  |  Issue 55

Camp Junior

Camp Opens for Bronx Youth at Harriman State Park

In July, Governor Cuomo announced the opening of Camp Junior, a summer camp for 500 young people this summer from targeted neighborhoods in the Bronx.

Named for 15-year-old Lesandro "Junior" Guzman-Feliz, who was killed by Bronx gang members last year in a case of mistaken identity, the camp will provide anti-violence lessons to children aged 9 to 13 as well as let them have fun in the outdoors. Junior’s mother, Leandra, attended the opening.

New York State Parks created the camp in partnership with The Fresh Air Fund and Bronx leaders, investing $2 million over two years to rehabilitate a deteriorated youth camp in Harriman State Park, a 47,500-acre wilderness park in Rockland and Orange Counties that is only 30 minutes from the Bronx.

Plans call for Camp Junior to boost enrollment to 1,000 children in the 2020 season and beyond.  Learn more.

Jone Beach Ribbon Cutting

Jones Beach Celebrates $100 million in Improvements During 90th Anniversary

The iconic state park on Long Island celebrated its 90th birthday with a big party on August 4, complete with a massive birthday cake, 9,990 cupcakes, and a series of performances and historical commemorations.

July also marked the opening of improvements at Jones Beach like WildPlay, a new outdoor adventure space includes zip lines, aerial adventure courses, and a 40-foot-drop jump, with Governor Cuomo kicking off the grand opening to take a zip line ride.

The August 4th anniversary party featured an historic deal on parking, with the fee cut from its current $10 to 50 cents per car – the same as it was when Jones Beach opened in 1929.

Other upgrades recently done at the park, with more to come, include rehabilitation of the West Bathhouse Complex and Field 6, restoration of the historic Central Mall mosaics, new playgrounds at the West Games Area and Zach's Bay, new gateway signage and the new Boardwalk Café restaurant.  Learn more.

Shirley Chisholm State Park

Brooklyn Gets Largest State Park in New York City in honor of Shirley Chisholm

The new 407-acre Shirley Chisholm State Park along the shores of Jamaica Bay opened in July as part of Governor Cuomo’s Vital Brooklyn Initiative.

Honoring the late former Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman to run for president, the new park gives the community a welcome connection to the outdoors and the bay.

In the park’s initial $20 million phase, it opened with ten miles of marked, crushed stone trails for hiking and biking (bikes offered to the public under a free loaner program); a bayside pier for picnicking and fishing along the park's Pennsylvania Avenue side; and water access.

Under a second $20 million phase currently under design, additions to the park will include a grand entrance on Fountain Avenue; lawn patios – with one large enough for open-air community gatherings and performances; a patio overlooking Hendrix Creek; and pop-up environmental education facilities in both the Fountain and Pennsylvania Avenue sections of the park. This work should be completed in 2021.

Standing up to 130 feet above sea level, the new park occupies some of the highest ground in the city, with panoramic views of the Empire State Building to the northwest, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and New York Harbor to the west, and Jamaica Bay to the south. Learn more. 

Sampson State Park Marina

Rebuilt Marina Opens at Sampson State Park on Seneca Lake

The largest of the Finger Lakes now has a new marina as part of a $7.5 million public-private partnership at Sampson State Park.

The rebuilt marina at the park features more than 90 slips with power and water connections, replacing an aging, worn-out facility that had been drawing decreasing boat traffic. Dredged out to increase its depth, the marina also includes launching ramps for jet skis, as well as for canoes and kayaks.

In partnership with New York State Parks and the New York State Canal Corporation, Westerloo-based developers SamSen LLC also will create an area for long-term camping at the 2,000-acre park.

Under a 40-year lease agreement with the state, SamSen can also develop and operate a long-term RV campground, cabin rentals, and boat rentals at both Sampson and Seneca Lake State Parks. Learn more. 

Learn to Swim Program

New York State Parks Kicks Off 7th Annual Free Learn-to-Swim Program

Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid visited Delta Lake State Park to announce the start of the seventh season of the program, which will reach up to 3,000 children this summer at 26 different State Parks.

Since beginning in 2013, the Learn-to-Swim program has helped nearly 18,000 children learn the lifelong skill of swimming with instruction from State Parks lifeguards, with the goal of reducing the risk of accidental drowning.

The program is offered through a partnership with State Parks; the American Red Cross; the Pool and Hot Tub Alliance and the Pool Masters Guild; and the Northeast Spa and Pool Association Foundation. Learn more.

Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park

New $3 Million Center Opens in Poughkeepsie at Walkway Over the Hudson

The new $3 million Dutchess Welcome Center is open at the eastern approach to Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park.

With entrances off both Washington Street and Orchard Place in Poughkeepsie, the center includes bathrooms, bike racks, tourist information, an outdoor patio with seating, and a dog-friendly water fountain.

A glassed-in elevator at the Walkway that offers visitors on a dramatic 212-foot, 21-story ascent has also been rebuilt, using new "energy chain" technology that was unavailable when the unit was first installed. This is expected to make service more reliable, as well as extend the season for elevator operation into the spring and fall.

More than five million people have visited the 1.28-mile Walkway – formerly an unused railroad bridge – after it opened as a state park in 2009 after decades of neglect.

With its sweeping views of the Hudson River Valley and beyond, the span has become a major tourist destination. Future planned improvements include a new pavilion and expanded gathering space at the Poughkeepsie entrance. Learn more.

Visit for a full list of events.

Wild Play adventure course

New Adventure Course Opens 

New this summer! WildPlay at Jones Beach State Park brings even more fun to the beach! The popular attraction features four side-by-side ziplines high above the waterfront offering riders a scenic 700-foot journey. The Adventure Course navigates a series of obstacles to test balance, strength and coordination. Visitors can select from the classic course, the extreme course, with the highest obstacle and ziplines at 50-feet, and the kid's course. The WTF (What's to Fear) Jump involves climbing up a rope ladder onto a wooden platform after being securely tethered to a jump line for a 40-foot jump. For information on pricing and to reserve a spot, visit: WildPlay at Jones Beach Also check out their other location, Wildplay at Thacher State Park near Albany. 

Darwin Martin House

Major Restoration of Buffalo’s Darwin Martin House Complete

Restoration of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed estate and landscape, which is a New York State Historic Site, is now complete after more than two decades.

Constructed in Buffalo between 1903 and 1905, the complex is an example of Wright’s Prairie House style, and includes the main residence and a secondary residence, which have both been renovated, as well as carriage house, gardener’s cottage and glass-roofed conservatory.

The most recent work by Rochester-based Bayer Landscape Architecture included recreation of the floricycle, which contains more than 20,000 perennials, bulbs and shrubs, as well as plantings of numerous plants, shrubs and trees in keeping with Wright’s original architectural and landscape features. Learn more. 

Leandra Feliz

Behind the Scenery with Leandra Feliz – Mother of the late Lesandro “Junior” Guzman-Feliz, 15-year-old Bronx youth honored by Camp Junior

What did you think when you first heard about plans for Camp Junior? 
“I was excited when I first heard the Governor and Commissioner talk about it. I told myself that if God wants it to happen, it will happen. And then it did.”

What was it like for you when you walked into Camp Junior? “It is a such a beautiful place. And I am so grateful, that the kids there are learning to be better people for the future. The kids all came to me, and said, “It’s Junior’s mom, it’s Junior’s mom.” They did not know Junior, but they knew what happened to him and felt like they have a connection to him. And they all wanted to hug me. I felt like I had all my new children, coming to me.

What kind of connection do you think there is between Junior and the camp? “Junior still comes to me in my dreams, and has many times. He is with Jesus. I believe that our (departed) loved ones can see what we do here, and that Junior knows about this camp and what is being done here. I believe that we will all meet again with our families one day.”

What message do you want the kids to leave the camp with? “I want them to know that they need to love themselves, and love each other, and that will help make a better world. They need to love each other more. Don’t be violent. Don’t hurt other people. Don’t join a gang. Love each other … If we can get one kid at Camp Junior to do that, it will be worth it. But I know it will be many more than that. I want to go back to visit the camp again. I know it will be there for many years and help many children.”