CORTLANDT, N.Y. – A few smiling children attended the Jim Martin Aviation Playground's opening day on Thursday. Cortlandt Town Supervisor Linda Puglisi said the riverfront park was the culmination of 20 years of work, and the generous donation of 26 acres of riverfront property by Jim Martin.
"I think it’s fine, I think it’s wonderful. It’s got a wonderful, wonderful spot," said great grandmother Audrey Grillo of Montrose about the Riverview Avenue park. She pushed her 2-year-old great grandson in a swing, assisted by her 6-year-old great granddaughter, Emma.
Nearly 180 degrees of the Hudson River is visible from the playground, located just east of Cortlandt's Veterans Park. The playground was newly landscaped, smelled of fresh mulch, and children's shouts were only muffled by rustling trees.
Puglisi called Martin a "dear friend" of the town, as she described how he refused multi-million dollar development offers to bequest the land to the town. The former seaplane base saw more than 80 aerial operations monthly while it was active.
In the agreement, which bestowed the land to the town, known as a life estate agreement, a nearby trailer park is allowed to remain on the property until 10 years after Martin's death. Martin died in 2006, and four years are left in the park's agreement. Separate from the sanctioned trailer park, about half dozen trailers have been "squatting" on the property adjacent to the playground. Puglisi said the trailers' rent is not collected by the town, but by the homeowners association within the park.
Also on the property are two huge airplane hangars, which town council member, Frank Farrell, hopes will one day house rowing crew equipment.
A community boat launch is set to be constructed in spring 2013, and will cost about $85,000 from the town's recreation fund. The Aviation Park, which was also funded by the recreation fund, cost $50,000. Money from the fund comes from developers, and is not funded by residents' taxes.
Puglisi said she hopes the park will eventually be furnished with additional gazeboes and playground equipment.
"This lovely parkland will provide many recreational opportunities for our residents," said Puglisi.
"It’s nice to be able to do this at a time when towns have very little resources," said council member Richard Becker.