January 21, 2022

Swing a symbol of Yaman’s generosity

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

A swing was installed recently overlooking the pond at Yaman Park in Cortland. The inscription reads, “In Loving Memory of Jim Yaman,” who donated the park 50 years ago.

The swing sits where the elderly gentleman would watch the kids and families play almost daily for the last 15 years of his life. The neighborhood was one he largely created, the park with its beach and play area one he donated.

It’s been 50 years since Jim Yaman donated the 16 acres to create Yaman Park, and 60 since the developer began building the first of 22 homes on what is now Morningside Drive, the first street in a 50-acre development. Then 70 more homes were planned between 1960 and 1967. Ninety more at Hickory Park Road began in 1968. Apartments, 32 units, on Kennedy Parkway broke ground in 1969.

It was a neighborhood, and it needed a neighborhood park.

Yaman wanted to give children without a backyard pool a place to swim, hence the 1967 donation to the city. The only stipulation in donating the land was that it be named for his father, Deib Joseph Yaman, who immigrated to Cortland with his wife from Lebanon in 1907.

David Yaman, Jim’s son and developer with David Yaman Real Estate, said the swing, which the Yaman companies installed in October, is the spot where Yaman would sit daily to watch the park and the neighborhood at play.

“It’s a sitting tribute to him to immortalize his contribution,” said David Yaman, who helped his father develop the neighborhood. “He would be at that location all the time.”

Jim Yaman, who founded Yaman Real Estate in 1950, died in March 2016. He was 96.

Jamie Yaman, the principal broker for Yaman Real Estate and Jim Yaman’s grandson, said the idea for the swing came to him when he and his wife were on a swing at an Ithaca park.

“We did the swing because we wanted something interactive,” Jamie Yaman said. “It’s a place where people can come, sit, and have a space to reflect on life.”

John McNerney, the director of the Cortland Youth Bureau, said about 16,000 people used Yaman Park during the beach season in 2017.

“Mr. Yaman has been very generous,” McNerney said, “and has made many contributions to Yaman park.”

Yaman helped fund fencing, new roofs on the pavilions, parking lot pavement, playground equipment, landscaping, benches and a $10,000 donation to assure the park remains free — close to $500,000 in all, Jamie Yaman said.