Allyn Jones Jr., owner of J & K Plumbing & Heating Co., noticed a problem in the neighborhood near his business on the west side of Binghamton.
“If you go around our neighborhood here, there are a lot of small, young kids,” Jones said. “It may seem like a little bit of a cartoon, but I would see them set up a bicycle jump in the middle of the street with scrap lumber and boxes. In the meantime, I’ve got trucks coming and going, but there’s nowhere for them to go.”
He decided that something needed to be done, so he purchased land on Walnut Street and donated it to the city to be a public park.
But the Walnut Street Park needed a lot of work before it could open.
That’s where Safe Streets, a community organization originally founded in 1995 as a neighborhood watch program, stepped in.
“Safe Streets for years has wanted a place for kids in this neighborhood to play,” said Mary Webster, the co-director of Safe Streets.
According to Webster, the park was an overflow parking lot for a now-defunct business that burned down years ago and had been vacant until it came up for auction last year.
The park officially opened at the beginning of May with a community clean-up day, but without swings or a slide it still felt empty.
That’s when the University’s PricewaterhouseCoopers Scholars program decided to turn the park into their annual community service project.
Elliot Kamlet, the then-adviser of the Scholars program and a lecturer in the School of Management, read about the clean-up in the Press & Sun-Bulletin and showed the park to Theo Baktidy and Joshua Katz, president and vice president for external affairs of the PwC Scholars program, respectively.
Baktidy said that he saw potential in park.
“After we saw what a great park it was and how much they still had to do we went to a meeting with Safe Streets … and we brought it back to the E-Board and decided it would be a perfect project,” said Baktidy, a senior majoring in accounting.
Their goal, which they officially announced at a kick-off event featuring food, games and bounce castles, on Sept. 11, is to raise $18,000 to plan and build a play area within the small neighborhood park. They hope to complete the goal by May, when they will host a community service day to actually build the park.
Baktidy said that he wants to create a place for neighborhood children to just be children.
“There’s not really anywhere to do that in this area right now,” Baktidy said.
David Schwartz, the Scholars program’s social vice president, said that he could already see how excited the neighborhood kids are.
“There was this kid who came up to me before … and he asked, ‘So is the park going to be done today?’” said Schwartz, a junior double-majoring in management and music. “They’re looking for somewhere they could just be kids.”
Robert Kennedy, who lives across the street from the park, attended the kick-off with his four-year-old daughter Sophia. He said he thinks that the park is a great idea.
“We love it,” Kennedy said. “We think it’s the best thing that happened to the community.”