Tag Archives: Department of Parks and Recreation.

Five city trees illegally chopped at former Bayside Hills gardening center site


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

Updated Saturday, July 27, 11:40 a.m.

The former site of the Keil Brothers gardening center in Bayside Hills isn’t a place for timber anymore.

Five city-owned trees with an estimated value of more than $340,000 saw the buzzer last week, resulting in complaints from residents and possible criminal charges and fines from the Parks Department.

Four ash trees and one American sycamore were killed. The trees were estimated to be at least 30 years old. The Parks Department is working with police to investigate the killing of the trees.

“Arborcide is a serious crime that deprives communities of the cleaner air, cooler streets and additional oxygen that trees provide,” Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski said. “NYC Parks is working with the NYPD to investigate the arborcide of these five Bayside trees, and will pursue full replacement value.”

The Keil Brothers merged with Garden World in Flushing earlier this year, and sold part of the site to the Department of Education and the section in question to 48 Garden Realty LLC in July, city filings show.

Trees on both the 48th Avenue side of the property and the 210th Street side were cut. However, only the saplings on 210th Street were privately owned, while the sprawling 50- to 60-foot-tall city trees on 48th Avenue belong to the city.

Representatives for 48 Garden Realty LLC could not be reached for comment as there is no contact email or number listed for the the firm.

Residents weren’t happy about the landscape change and Councilman Mark Weprin promised charges would come.

“Arborcide is a criminal offense, and I will be working to support the Parks and Police Departments to see that the perpetrators are prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” Weprin said.

Photo courtesy of John Richard

Although leaders at Community Board 11 said they hope new trees will be replanted, and the Parks Department is promising to seek full replacement, residents are still troubled by the loss.

“It was devastating. Instead of an empty lot, I was looking at a forest,” said John Richard, who lives across the street. “It’s sad because it takes 45 years to grow those things, but a day to cut them down.”

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: A previous version of this article stated the trees were cut by the lot’s current owner, 48 Garden Realty LLC, based on misinformation. The Parks Department confirmed that the NYPD investigation is still ongoing.

 

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Alley Pond Environmental Center to get new $7.1M visitors’ building


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Renderings courtesy Department of Parks and Recreation


The Alley Pond Environmental Center (APEC) in Douglaston is growing with a new $7.1 million building.

Construction on the 10,000-square-foot structure is expected to start next summer, and be completed in 2017, according to the Parks Department.

The structure, which will nearly double the current visitors’ center, is necessary to meet the demands of popular after-school and camp programs, which create an enormous waiting list every year of 7,000 to 10,000 children.

The new building will house more classrooms, staff offices, a large lobby that doubles as an exhibition space, a public meeting room and restrooms.

“We are very excited,” said Irene Scheid, APEC executive director. “The organization sees a lot of potential in this new building in terms of education value and community teaching capabilities.”

The new structure will be LEED silver certified, which is the third highest green rating by the U.S. Green Building Council, behind gold and platinum. The exterior will be a modern design, clad in brick, glass and steel.

The center’s parking lot is also being designed with bioswales that capture and retain storm water.

To fund the project, the Queens borough president’s office allocated $4 million, the City Council allocated $2.186 million and the mayor’s office added $1 million.

 

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Ridgewood Reservoir plans met with mixed reaction


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation

Residents are riled up at a plan to transform the Ridgewood Reservoir, saying they prefer to preserve the 150-year site in its natural state.

Representatives from the Department of Parks and Recreation presented three concepts of the master plan for the reservoir at a public meeting hosted by the Park Services Committee of Community Board (CB) 5 on June 27 at the St. Pancras School.

Contrary to neighbors’ pleas, the presentation showed dramatic changes to the reservoir to allow more people to enjoy the green space.

“I would like to see the Ridgewood Reservoir kept in as natural a state as possible and become an environmental center,” said CB5 District Manager Gary Giordano. “[For] any recreational activities, we would like to see Highland Park improved.”

The reservoir, situated near the Brooklyn-Queens border in Highland Park, was used to supply water to Brooklyn starting in the 1850s. Three basins make up the more than 50-acre space, which was officially decommissioned in 1990, according to the Parks Department.

In the first concept plan presented, the public will only have access to the third basin, while the other basins will be locked and opened only for maintenance. There will be stone paths weaved through basin three and the gatehouse between basins one and two will be restored and turned into a ranger station. There will also be viewing platforms around basin two, where a large pool of water currently sits.

The second plan includes all modifications from the first, but adds access to the first basin. A rock climbing wall and a meadow area will be placed in basin three, a boardwalk in basin one and a boat dock in the second basin.

The final concept features the most access. This plan will contain all the mark-ups of the first two plans, plus baseball fields, a comfort station and a waterworks-themed adventure playground in the third basin.

The first plan was the most favorable to residents because it allows very limited access to the public.
“Whatever needs to be done, I prefer A,” Middle Village resident Joy Fieldstadt said. “It’s the least invasive and it’s the least development. There are existing ball fields [in Highland Park] and there are existing playgrounds there. If there was money, I would like to see the Parks Department put it into that.”

Residents are concerned because they don’t want the nature in the area disturbed. The reservoir is home to plant life such as Sweet Gum, Black Cherry and Grey Birch trees and wildlife such as Red-Shouldered Hawks and Short-Eared Owls.

The reservoir is currently closed while it undergoes Phase 1, part of Mayor’ Michael Bloomberg’s PlaNYC initiative. Phase one includes new lighting, pathways, stairs and an access ramp.

Parks Department representatives did not have a price tag for any of the plans, saying they “didn’t want to stifle creativity by putting limitations.”

While the plans have been presented, nothing is set in stone until residents can get public officials to allocate money.

 

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Pol red over lack of Greenstreets


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of the Department of Parks and Recreation

A state senator scolded the city for making changes to a green program that has left some turf in his district deserted.

Unused road areas have been turned into leafy green spaces since 1996, under the city Department of Parks and Recreation’s Greenstreets program, but now only pieces of land in flood-prone areas are being considered by the agency.

State Senator Tony Avella said the “abrupt” modifications to the program’s initiative has led the Parks Department to reject many requests made from northeast Queens residents who had hoped to have blights near their homes beautified.

“Unfortunately, with this new, restrictive criteria that [the Parks Department] has instituted, additional locations will be rejected,” Avella said, adding that he had secured several Greenstreets throughout his district, including ones along Francis Lewis Boulevard. “As a result, these locations continue to deteriorate and become blights in the neighborhood.”

But the program’s priorities now lie beyond surface-level aesthetics, according to the Parks Department, which in 2010 changed Greenstreets’ focus to capturing storm water, reducing the burden on the city’s sewer system. They are only now constructed where they are “absolutely necessary,” a spokesperson said.

More than 870 Queens spaces have been turned to Greenstreets, the Parks rep said, and more will be built after the agency secured additional funding from the city’s Department of Environmental Protection.

“We would welcome funding from Senator Avella to build additional Greenstreets in other areas,” the spokesperson said.

Timers will save thousands of gallons of water at city parks


| brennison@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/photo by Billy Rennison

On most cool, rainy days throughout the summer, city sprinklers run continuously, pouring thousands of gallons of water — and money — down the drain.

But a joint project between the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Department of Parks and Recreation is looking to put an end to this water waste through timed spray showers at city parks.

Timers installed on spray showers at two Queens playgrounds, Glendale and Maple, will save more than 5,000 gallons of water a day at each. An activation button was placed next to the showers at the parks, providing two minutes of water. If kids are still playing when the water stops, someone just needs to press the button again to continue the water.

“We’re working together to make a cleaner and greener and healthier city that also happens to save money,” said Adrian Benepe, Parks Department commissioner. “As a world community we have to be much more responsible about managing our water resources.”

The new initiative — part of the Water for the Future program — was announced at Glendale Playground on Thursday, August 9. The DEP’s program aims to reduce the city’s water consumption by five percent.

Before the timer was installed, showers ran nonstop, using about 7,000 gallons of water per day. The DEP expects the new plan will save about 80 percent (5,600 gallons) of the wasted water each day. Over the next year, 23 more will be installed, and by 2017 more than 400 will be in place in the five boroughs — saving 1.5 million gallons of water daily.

“NYC water is one of the city’s most precious resources, and it’s important that we conserve it wherever we can while also enhancing opportunities for New Yorkers to enjoy water outdoors,” said Carter Strickland, commissioner of the DEP.

Shifa Lalani, 9, of Middle Village, one of the dozens of kids from the Lost Battalion Hall enjoying the spray showers at Glendale Park, agreed conserving water was vital.

“People need water to drink and to survive,” she said.

 

Little Neck neighbors want problem tree removed


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Neighbors in Little Neck say a rotted tree rooted on a popular pathway is on its last leg and poses a danger to pedestrians passing beneath its falling limbs.

“I walk on the street. I’m so afraid of walking under this tree that I make a detour,” said Vicky Cosgrove, 61, pointing to a problematic maple at 48-03 Marathon Parkway. “It’s very dangerous.”

According to Cosgrove, the tree is hollow inside and has a number of dying or already dead branches, especially on one long arm that looms over her neighbor’s front yard, where a three year old often plays. The threatening timber, Cosgrove said, is also situated on a sidewalk where many J.H.S. 67 students venture to and from the school located less than half a mile away.

“I’d hate to see a branch come down and kill a kid,” she said. “It’s ridiculous.”

Nahid Neysani, 56, who lives in the house in front of the tree, said it was once flanked by two other trees of the same poor condition. They were removed, she said, after a few branches came down on her fence and made noticeable dents.

Still, she said she was told by the city the last tree standing on her street was not a problem.

“They’re not rushing anything,” she said. “If we have crazy wind or storms, maybe the branches will break.”

Cosgrove said she filed multiple reports to 3-1-1 and even placed calls to higher ups in the Parks Department out of frustration, although her efforts were in vain. According to a recent 3-1-1 inspection report dated June 6 of this year, the Department of Parks and Recreation inspected the tree “but the condition was not found.” The service request was also listed “closed” with no planned further updates.

“I’m no arborist, but to say this tree was inspected and no conditions were found — I don’t believe them,” Cosgrove said. “Are they blind? I was livid. Nothing gets done with the city. They tell us, ‘If you see something, say something.’ When we do, we are treated with contempt.”

But the agency changed its tune soon after The Courier reached out for more information at the end of June.

A Parks Department spokesperson said after the city tree was inspected last week, it was determined to be “in poor health” and will be removed within the next 30 days. The tree will not be felled immediately though, the spokesperson said, because it is still alive and not split.

“I’m a tree hugger. I love trees, but you have to maintain them,” Cosgrove said. “Sure, you can’t help everything. If a tornado came tomorrow and a tree hit you on the head, some things can’t be helped. But this is an accident waiting to happen.”

City trees are inspected and pruned on a block-by-block basis in a portion of each community board every year, a Parks spokesperson said.

 

Western Queens will soon be more bike friendly


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

QNS BRIDGE PARK GRNWAYw

Residents will soon have a greener, healthier way to beat the traffic around western Queens.

The Department of Parks and Recreation is currently constructing the Queens East River and North Shore Greenway, a 10.6-mile, urban, multi-use trail intended to provide access to the borough’s shoreline and improve commuting options for people beyond motorized vehicles. The bike and pedestrian pathway will connect Long Island City, Hunters Point, Ravenswood and Astoria with Jackson Heights and East Elmhurst. It will also unite five parks on the East River shoreline – Astoria, Ralph DeMarco, Hallet’s, Queensbridge and Rainey parks.

“For us, it adds another location for people from anywhere in the borough to hop on a bicycle to this location and recreate in many neighborhood parks,” said Queens Borough Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski. “It makes a nice connection between your neighborhood and public parks. Street greenways and park greenways allow you to ride the city streets in a safe manner, but also to turn off into a public park and ride around the park as well.”

Lewandowski believes the western Queens neighborhoods have recently experienced a resurgence, and the greenway will only further enhance their renaissance.

Work is currently underway at Hallet’s Cove, Ralph DeMarco and Rainey parks, while the path at Queensbridge Park has already been completed. Construction is set to commence at Astoria Park by the middle of summer, and the greenway is expected to be completed late in the fall. When concluded, the project, which costs $3.46 million, will include new pavement, signage, benches and landscaped areas for pedestrians and cyclists to relax.

“It will be a nice, pleasant experience to recreate in the park, sit with your cycle, have a snack and enjoy the view of the Manhattan skyline, as well as all the watercrafts going up and down the East River,” Lewandowski said.

The trail will eventually connect to the bike path over the Pulaski Bridge, which links Brooklyn and Queens, and attach to another greenway which leads to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

The greenway is part of a multiyear effort to implement an inclusive, citywide network of cycling lanes. The Parks Department is also interested in creating a similar path along the Laurelton Parkway in southeast Queens, but Lewandowski says funding is still required.

Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, who represents portions of western Queens and is a cycling enthusiast, believes the pathway will make community residents more active and healthy, as well as bring business into the neighborhoods.

“I think this is a great initiative that will get people out of their homes and out onto the streets and into the parks,” Van Bramer said. “It will allow them to explore their own neighborhood and other neighborhoods in ways they hadn’t done so before. Walking and cycling are also both great ways to exercise. People can make a day of it and cycle or walk along the greenway, and there is going to be a time when folks are going to want to stop for lunch or water or a snack. This is what this is about – getting people to see the beautiful shoreline and to experience it in ways they haven’t before.”

The construction of the greenway comes at the same time the city has announced “Citi Bike,” the nation’s largest public bike share system set to launch in July of 2012. Citi has agreed to pay $41 million to be the title sponsor of the program, which will include 10,000 bikes and 600 docking stations.

According to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office, the bike share will be located in parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn. DOT spokesperson Nicholas Mosquera says the department is examining opportunities to expand the program into Queens.

Cooper resigns from Queens parks


| aaltman@queenscourier.com


Having planted the seeds for a flourishing Parks Department, Estelle Cooper, assistant commissioner of the Queens Department of Parks and Recreation and Flushing Meadows-Corona Park administrator, has resigned.

Under Cooper’s 18-year tenure, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park transformed. She advocated for the installation of a set of synthetic soccer fields, the construction of the Aquatic Center and the new Al Oerter Recreation Center.

According to the Parks Department, Cooper also expanded the United States Tennis Association as well as surveyed the construction of the New York Met’s new home, Citi Field.

“The parks have seen significant upgrades [because of Cooper]. They’re greener and more sustainable,” said Steven Stites, a source close to Cooper. “I don’t think you’ll find a person who’ll speak ill about her.”

According to Stites, Estelle plans to begin a new career as a partner in a political communications firm.

“We all wish Estelle the best as she embarks on her new endeavors,” said a Parks Department spokesperson.

In the interim, as the Parks Department searches for a successor to Cooper’s legacy, Janice Melnick, administrator for Northeast Queens Parks, will oversee Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

Editor’s Note: See next week’s Queens Courier for a look at the future of Queens parks.

Little Bay Park project stall is little ‘comfort’


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Michael Pantelidis

Bayside elected officials and community leaders are campaigning for relief for visitors of Little Bay Park and hoping that millions of dollars in funding hasn’t been flushed by the Department of Parks and Recreation.

Senator Tony Avella united with Warren Schreiber, president of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance, and residents of the Bayside community on November 29 to urge the Parks Department to begin the revitalization project of Little Bay Park – which includes the construction of a comfort station.

Avella, who previously allocated funding for a dog run in the park, apportioned $1.3 million for the public restrooms seven years ago – the same time Congressmember Gary Ackerman secured a $4.12 million federal transportation allocation to reconstruct and expand the Little Bay parking lot and rebuild the Cross Island Parkway Bridge overpass at 212th Street.

Neither project has commenced, and three port-a-potties are currently stationed in the park.

“This seems to be systematic of the Parks Department – getting money and then not moving ahead with the project,” said Avella, who believes usage of the park has increased by 1,000 percent in the past decade. “It is unfair to the community to have to wait seven years for something they have been asking for, and it is unfair to tax payers because each year you delay a capital project, costs go up. I would hate to even ask the Parks Department what this project would cost today.”

The senator blames the delay on a lack of communication and transparency and says he plans to introduce state legislation requiring all city agencies to provide information on their web sites about all pending capital projects, including where funding is coming from, the anticipated start and completion dates and where the projects are in the construction process.

“These were important funds that I fought hard to secure for our community,” said Ackerman. “It’s well past time for these projects to move forward. Hopefully, all agencies involved can cut through the bureaucratic red tape so that shovels can finally get into the ground as soon as possible.”

During the press conference, community leaders emphasized that there is “great fear” that the money is being used for other projects.

“It’s obvious that the planned park and traffic enhancements have somehow been derailed. It’s time to get them back on track,” said Schreiber, who called the Parks Department one of the most difficult agencies to deal with. “At some point you have to wonder if the money is still there or if it was used for another purpose.”

According to a Parks Department spokesperson, a number of outstanding issues exist that are preventing the initiation of the project, including state approval to build close to a coastal zone, state approval to handle archaeological finds – if any are discovered on site – due to the recent discovery of archaeological material within half a mile of the park, and permission from several agencies to utilize a sewer line owned by the FDNY.

“The total budget for the comfort station and parking lot is approximately $4 million,” said the spokesperson. “This includes both federal and city funds. The funding is secure and has not been reallocated. Because the project contains federal grant funds, the state is obligated to review all plans before Parks can bid or begin to build.  We’ve been working closely and actively with the State Department of Transportation (DOT) to address their comments and requests.”

After learning of the press conference on November 29, Avella says Parks Department officials and the Department of Transportation contacted him and arranged a meeting to discuss the project.

“At this point, I am optimistic that the Parks Department recognizes this is a serious issue for the community,” Avella said. “Hopefully they will realize that we need communication and transparency and we are here to work together to move this project along.”