The area around Newtown Creek, which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recognizes as one of the “nation’s most polluted waterways,” could be the site of a brand-new community athletic field in Maspeth.
During a City Council hearing, Eric Landau, associate commissioner of public affairs for the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), testified before the Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Siting and Maritime Uses, asking for public siting approval on the construction of an aeration facility for Newtown Creek in Maspeth.
The proposed aeration facility is part of a state-mandated effort to improve water quality in Newtown Creek and would be located on 47th Street, near the water’s edge. The facility would help raise oxygen levels in the water and promote wildlife sustainability.
The initial phase of construction leaves approximately one and a half acres of open space on the property, which Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and Community Board 5 have expressed interest in converting into an athletic field.
“While it is very important to build this aeration facility for Newtown Creek, it is also important our community take advantage of green space for athletics. I am grateful the DEP has agreed to work with the community to allow for public use of the land,” Crowley said. “In Maspeth, there is a high volume of trucks traveling through the streets. It also has fewer city parks. This lack of green space plus its proximity to the LIE both lead to a higher rate of obesity and asthma compared to neighboring communities.”
“Maspeth residents are disadvantaged in that they lack access to sufficient open green space,” she added. “We can promote sports and physical activity by taking advantage of all public space options, ideally by way of increased access to athletic fields.”
Landau testified to the City Council that the DEP will begin discussions with the community, as well as local athletic groups, about entering into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) regarding an athletic field on the unused portion of land.
The MOU would state that the sports organizations are responsible for the capital cost of the field as well as the maintenance. Also, if the DEP should ever need the field in the future, upon reasonable notice, the sports organization would need to discontinue operations on the property until any and all construction on the site is complete. Once construction is complete, the site would be handed back over to the community again.
“Understanding that the space may be needed in the future to meet state and federal water quality requirements, DEP is committed to working with the Council and community organizations that are willing to build and maintain the space for athletic purposes, as we have with a soccer league in Manhattan near our North River Waste Water Treatment Plant,” Landau said. “As an immediate next step, we look forward to taking Council member Crowley, local leaders, and other community members on a tour of similar public amenities DEP has constructed, as well as beginning discussions with local athletic groups, identified by [Crowley].”