There’s a beautiful new accessible path along Forest Hill Road, that connects the Willowbrook Campus to the Meiers Corners community. The sidewalk follows Willowbrook Road to Forest Hill Road. It then continues south past the Institute for Basic Research all the way to the group home residences along Executive Way.
Before the sidewalk was built, it was hard for people with mobility issues to leave the Willowbrook campus. People who use wheelchairs or walkers would need to use a busy street to enter the community at an intersection without a traffic light nor sidewalk.
“It felt like a prison, being stuck on campus,” said Joseph Padalino. “It felt like the old Willowbrook.”
Gregory Perosi added, “Now we have a way of leaving the campus. It gives us an opportunity to enjoy ourselves. ”
The new sidewalk runs along a wooded area belonging to the State of New York that borders the former Willowbrook State School. This had the Life-Wire News crew speculating- what if they made a park in the area? “People of every ability could enjoy the beauty of nature,” wondered Aaron Bialer. “There could be benches and paths and playgrounds. It would be a great opportunity for inclusion and to meet people in the community.”
New York State already operates several greenspaces on Staten Island, including: Arden Heights Woods, Bloesser’s Pond, North Mount Loretto State Forest, Lemon Creek, and Clay Pit Ponds State Park Preserve. Opening up the Forest Hill Road woods with accessible paths would benefit the disabilities community, the residents of New York State operated group homes, and the neighbors in the surrounding communities of Meiers Corners and Westerleigh.
What do you think would be a good use of the greenspaces surrounding the Willowbrook campus? Share your ideas to LFDmedia@lfdsi.org.
-Written collaboratively by Aaron Bialer, Joseph Padalino, and Gregory Perosi for Life-Wire News Service with Edward Gregory.