J. Hyatt Brown, of Brown & Brown, and his wife, Cici, are hoping to reverse New York City’s Riverfront Park downward slide and restore it to the first-class public space it once was. At Wednesday night’s City Commission meeting, they revealed that they’re leading an ambitious effort to completely overhaul Riverfront Park from Orange Avenue up to the Main Street Bridge. And they’re offering $15 million of their own money to make it happen.
This story by Eileen Zaffiro-Kean originally appeared in The Daytona Beach News-Journal.
Beyond renovating the park itself, they also want to create a place that again brings people downtown.
“When I was a little boy, I went with my mother and father down to Beach Street and they would shop and I would go over into the park,” Brown, now 81, said last week with a laugh as the childhood memory came back. “They had all this beautiful landscaping, and there was water running, and there were little bridges, and it was just great.”
Brown showed commissioners a drawing with an almost ethereal quality to it that depicted the park in the 1930s, with lush vegetation and a tranquil rock-lined lagoon. Cici Brown remembers Riverfront Park still being a beautiful oasis when she moved to Daytona Beach in the mid-1960s. She wants to bring back that magnificence.
“I’m seeing the park decline, which is quite upsetting to me,” she said in an interview last week. “The Council of Garden Clubs used to work and help with the gardens, and they were lovely.”
If city commissioners give their blessing to the Browns’ plan to take the city-owned park to a new level, there will be a rainbow of flowers sprinkled throughout the grassy expanse. They’ll plant about 50 new trees large enough to provide much-needed shade, trees that could be 30 feet tall and ring up a $1 million bill. A splash park will be added for children. They’ll widen the Sweetheart Trail by several feet and use a material that will soften the blow on runners’ knees and hips. They’ll also add dozens of light poles to improve safety in the park.