Howard Beach residents just want their park cleaned up.
Before plans Frank M. Charles Memorial Park are made, Community Board 10 wants the joint effort between the NYC Parks Department and Gateway National Recreation Area to get more local input.
Board members on Thursday, April 4 unanimously voted on a resolution to ask the coalition to remove Charles Park from consideration in the development of Jamaica Bay until further measures are taken.
“That park is in deplorable condition. It has been in deplorable condition for years,” Board chair Elizabeth Braton told a Parks representative. “When the City of New York entered in this agreement where the Parks Department would be allowed to go into Gateway and do some things, it was not the expectation of the local community that the first thing the Parks Department would do is engage in a revenue-making operation there.”
Parks and Gateway, which is an arm of the National Park Service, formed an agreement last summer to help drive more tourism to Jamaica Bay. Requests for Proposals (RFPs) were released last month for developers to create bike terminals, kayak launching areas or food concession stands.
The goal is to have these stands open by this Memorial Day weekend, with Jacob Riis Park in Rockaway as another option for Queens, according to the Parks Department.
But residents want Charles Park, notoriously in poor shape, to be cleaned up before any other sort of new development comes in. Others were concerned this would put a revenue-driving source in a park and disrupt the neighborhood.
While representatives from Gateway didn’t speak at the April meeting, Lauren Standke, a project manager for NYC Parks, spoke to the Board on what the project entails. She said it was not a goal to make money off these stands, but rather, bring more people to south Queens.
Any developer who comes into Gateway would also have to maintain the 50 feet of parkland around the site, Standke said.
“We really wanted to release these Requests for Proposals so that we could get these concessions in place by the summer season,” Standke said in regard to the lack of community input on the RFPs. “I think that with the release of these Requests for Proposals the idea is really to shift the focus to these parks that people really haven’t visited before.”