Residents living around the Joe Galapo Playground on Bedford Avenue and Gravesend Neck Road have probably noticed the sudden construction going on in the park. Just about everything has been, or will soon be, torn out to make way for a massive renovation.
After the renovation, Galapo Playground will include new play equipment, new pavement, a spray shower and new safety mats. The bathrooms and fencing will not be touched. Using mayoral funds, workers are aiming to complete the project by summer 2011.
According to the Parks Department’s website, Galapo Playground underwent a $66,731 renovation in 1997, backed by Mayor Guiliani. They added play equipment with safety surfacing, restored the handball courts, and replanted trees and other vegetation.
Now, if you don’t live near this park, you probably heard the name and, like me, went, “Who the heck is Joe Galapo?”
You see, the park was originally named Bedford Neck Playground. But the city renamed it in 1989 for a police officer who lived a few blocks away. Joe Galapo was a police officer with the Brooklyn South Narcotics Unit, having worked his way up from the 60th Precinct, serving Coney Island.
On August 16, 1988, Galapo and his partner, Sgt. William Martin, were making an arrest in Sunset Park during a buy-and-bust sting targeting crack dealers. Guns drawn, Galapo and Martin put the suspects against a car when one of the thugs lashed out at Martin, hitting his arm and triggering the pistol.
The officer was posthumously promoted to detective, as he died before receiving an expected promotion. As a letter from his wife shows, Commission Kerik later altered the memorial wall at One Police Plaza to reflect the promotion, and presented the widow with a gold shield.
And now you know why it’s called Joe Galapo Playground. Don’t forget it.