Tag Archives: Dorothy Lewandowski

Elmhurst plants a tree to honor late Parks Department employee


| editorial@ridgewoodtimes.com

RIDGEWOOD TIMES/Photo by Kelly Marie Mancuso

BY KELLY MARIE MANCUSO

The Parks Department and members of the Communities of Maspeth and Elmhurst Together (COMET) teamed up on June 11 for a special Elmhurst Park Day of Service in memory of Parks Department manager Jennifer Kao.

Kao, a senior project manager with the Parks Department’s Planning and Parklands division, worked with the community to help create the park on the site of the former Elmhurst gas tanks. Tragically, Kao died earlier this year.

The Elmhurst Park Day of Service began with a special tree planting ceremony in Kao’s honor led by Dorothy Lewandowski, the Parks Department’s Queens commissioner.

“I had an opportunity to work with Jennifer when I came here about 10 or 11 years ago,” Lewandowski recalled. “She was an important part of the Parks Department. Her character and dedication went above the task. I greatly miss her.”

Kao was also fondly remembered by her fellow Parks Department colleagues, as well as community members.

“I think it’s a real testament to Jennifer Kao’s reach across the agency in working with various members to get projects done,” explained Parks Department Assistant Commissioner for Planning Alyssa Konon.

“For all of us who knew her, she was a very dedicated person who was very thorough and followed through on numerous tasks,” Konon said. “I’m sure it would please her to know that we’re all here today on something that she started. Here we are following through on something that she helped to make happen.”

COMET representative Richie Polgar also expressed gratitude for Kao’s work in creating Elmhurst Park.

“This park is one of the greatest things that have happened to this area,” Polgar said. “It’s so great to see this many people enjoying the park as it was intended to be. I’m so glad we have it.”

According to Lewandowski, COMET member Christina Wilkinson reached out to her shortly after Kao’s passing requesting that the community plant a special tree in Kao’s memory.

The tree planted in Kao’s honor is an Eastern Red Bud. “It gets beautiful, heart-shaped leaves and little pink flowers in the early spring that bloom against the wood, so it looks like the stems are lit up with pink,” said Queens Director of Horticulture Adriana Jaceykewycz.

Community volunteers and Parks Department employees continued to work on cleaning the park and planting new flowers and shrubbery well into the afternoon.

“This is a good spot to come back and contemplate about not only our own lives, but Jennifer’s, too,” Lewandowski said.

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Little Bay parking lot expanded for 99 more vehicles


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the NYC Parks Department

The parking lot at Little Bay Park in Whitestone can fit nearly 100 more vehicles after being expanded as part of a $6.659 million reconstruction project of the park’s amenities.

Public officials and Parks Department representatives were on hand to celebrate the ribbon cutting of the park, and classic cars were on display as part of the event. The new parking lot was expanded to include 224 spaces, 99 more than were previously there.

“This parking lot has been sorely needed by the community and I am thankful that the construction had completed, allowing its use for the whole summer,” Councilman Paul Vallone said. “As we gear up for summer events such as local sports games and the July 1 fireworks show, the newly expanded parking lot will be important for maximizing the accessibility of Fort Totten and I also look forward to the completion of the comfort station by the end of the fall.”

Green infrastructure was also added for increased stormwater management.

Twenty-nine new retention tanks will capture and manage all of the site’s stormwater runoff, eventually releasing it back into the ground to minimize any strain on the city’s stormwater sewage system. Bioswales, or raised beds of soil and plants meant to capture and filter rainwater into the ground, were also installed above the retention tanks and planted with perennials, grasses, trees and shrubs.

The project was funded through $3.65 million allocated by the mayor, $720,000 from the City Council and $2.016 million in federal grants. Although work on the comfort station was delayed due to bad weather, construction is now underway and scheduled for completion this fall.

“This summer, you can bike, jog or drive to Little Bay Park,” said Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski. “No matter how you got here, Little Bay and neighboring Fort Totten Park are popular destinations for visitors from around Queens to enjoy sports, recreation and waterfront views.”

The Little Bay Park is bound on the south by the Cross Island Parkway, and is directly adjacent to the Little Bay on the north. It offers clear views of the Throgs Neck Bridge, which runs up to the west of the park.

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Evergreen Park renovations celebrated at Glendale groundbreaking


| editorial@ridgewoodtimes.com

TIMES NEWSWEEKLY/Photo by Kelly Marie Mancuso

BY KELLY MARIE MANCUSO

City officials and civic leaders celebrated the start of Evergreen Park’s reconstruction during a ceremony Friday morning at the Glendale green space.

Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley joined Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski and others to ceremonially break ground on renovations to the playground on the national observance of Arbor Day.

“It’s really appropriate, because it’s Arbor Day, that we have all of this green coming into this park,” Lewandowski said.

Construction on the park began in early April and is expected to take about one year to complete. The first phase of the park’s reconstruction will include replacing the underused bocce and shuffleboard courts with a garden-inspired playground, spray showers, new shrubs and plantings.

According to Lewandowski, the new playground, themed with the title “Play in the Garden,” will feature new spray showers with “large green misting leaves and directional jets and bubblers, in a field of leaves and vines.”

“It’s going to promote innovative play for toddlers and young children,” Lewandowski said. “This will be a really creative spot where kids can play. The days of the old concrete spray shower are gone. This will be much more interactive for children.”

Crowley allocated $1 million in funding for this first phase of the park’s reconstruction. The councilwoman considers Evergreen Park a “special place” as it’s where she used to play softball while growing up.

“This project is a long time coming,” Crowley said.

Community Board 5 was well represented at the affair in the form of Chairperson Vincent Arcuri, District Manager Gary Giordano, Parks Committee Chair Steven Fiedler, Paul Kerzner and Tom Dowd. Also on hand were Mike Liendo and David Sands, the respective president and vice president of the Liberty Park Home Owners Association, and Barry Grodenchik, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz’s director of community boards.

Community members, including Sands and Liendo, first approached Crowley back in 2009, shortly after she was elected, regarding refurbishment of the park.

According to Fiedler, a design committee rejected the plan on two occasions before finally granting approval to proceed.

“I’m glad to see this move forward,” he said. “It’s a great design.”

Crowley also announced that an additional $2.4 million in funding for the second phase of improvements was secured in conjunction with Katz and the mayor’s office. These improvements may include refurbishment of the asphalt field, basketball courts and comfort stations.

“I want to make sure everybody stays engaged as we come together to plan the next phase of this project,” Crowley said.

TIMES NEWSWEEKLY/photo by Kelly Marie Mancuso

TIMES NEWSWEEKLY/Photo by Kelly Marie Mancuso

Principal Ann Marie Scalfano and first-graders from P.S. 68 also attended the groundbreaking ceremony. The children carried handmade signs and banners thanking Crowley for her funding and support of Evergreen Park.

“It’s exciting, because this $1 million allocation will go a long way in making Evergreen Park a better park for the community,” Crowley said. “The park is uniquely named ‘Evergreen’ and it’s important to keep it young and fresh for the young people of the community.”

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As temperatures stay frigid, Queens councilman hosts kids coat drive


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Salvatore Licata

As New Yorkers experience subzero temperatures this winter, one councilman decided to help keep some of Queens’ most vulnerable warm.

“Being able to give to our young people is great,” said Councilman I. Daneek Miller. “They’re what make our community great. This is a small part of what we try to do for the community but it is necessary that we do it.”

Miller hosted an event in partnership with the Parks Department and the Uniformed Fire Officers Association, the organization that supplied brand-new coats for children in his district. He held the event on Wednesday at the Detective Keith L. Williams Field House in Jamaica, which was happily made available by Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski, for a special reason.

“We had a toy drive here in December and I noticed so many of our young people didn’t have the proper attire on to keep them warm,” Miller said. “So, when the fire department reached out to me and asked if I knew of people in need, I couldn’t think of a better place to go.”

DSC_0058

This is the first year that the UFOA Local 854 is doing the coat drive and coined the name “Operation Warm, more than a coat.”

This was the fourth place they donated coats in the city, all of which are brand-new, brightly colored and warm, Lewandowski said. The association bought over 50 coats to the drive in hopes of keeping children warm until the winter chill blows over.

“We’re a labor organization always looking to help out,” said Derek Harken, a member of the UFOA. “All the coats are made in America, we purchase them and then go to communities where we can help the people out with them.”

Lewandowski commended the organization for their work, especially for helping out those children that may be experiencing some economic hardship.

“These are incredibly good students that participated in this event,” she said. “These coats are not only colorful but extremely warm and the children will benefit from this wonderful operation.”

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New Juniper Valley Park bocce courts met with skepticism


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Juniper Valley Park’s three new bocce courts opened on Wednesday with a ribbon cutting ceremony and talk of meatballs and spaghetti. But for the players, most of whom are older Italians, the new courts don’t meet their standards.

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz said that the new courts, which replaced two older ones, were “Grade-A.” But many of the players present during the ceremony weren’t such generous graders.

 “It looks nice. They spent a lot of money on this,” John Pistone, 62, said. “So I give them an A for effort but for efficiency, I give them an F.”

Pistone and his fellow bocce players complained that the new $850,000 courts weren’t leveled correctly and that the design of the overhead shades didn’t prevent rain from soaking the courts. The bulk of the money came from Katz’s office and Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley allocated another $50,000.

Queens Park Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski boasted that the shades placed on all three courts would keep the players cool. But Frank Trocchia said the shades were too small to provide any real protection from the sun.

“We get here in the morning and by 11 o’clock it’s too hot for us to even play,” Trocchia, 64, said. “They didn’t consult us on this design.”

Trocchia and Pistone then proceeded to argue with each other over the ineffective shades and the unbalanced field and which one truly made the bocce courts flawed.

 

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Festival to celebrate World’s Fair anniversaries this Sunday


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Unisphere

DOROTHY LEWANDOWSKI

On Sunday, May 18, from 1 to 5:30 p.m., NYC Parks is celebrating two World’s Fair anniversaries — the 75th anniversary of the 1939 and the 50th anniversary of the 1964 — in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

The giant one-day festival will offer inflatable rides, puppet shows, strolling magicians, tents filled with World’s Fair memorabilia, live cultural dance and music, history tours of World’s Fair icons in the park, great food and a place to record your own World’s Fair memories and photos.

From 5:30 to 9 p.m., stay for a free concert by the Liverpool Shuffle, a Beatles tribute band, followed by the Queens Symphony Orchestra and a skyful of fireworks. If you plan to ride the 7 subway, you might find yourself on one of the actual World’s Fair cars from the 1964 Fair — the MTA is returning it to service May 18 only to celebrate the day.

The Fairs are gone, but Flushing Meadows Corona Park, the World’s Park, remains.

Since 2002, NYC Parks has spent nearly $89 million on dozens of capital improvements to the park, and this important work continues. Some are renovations or new uses for World’s Fair legacy structures.

Originally built for the 1939 Fair, the Boathouse on Meadow Lake is now home to the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival, which holds its annual race in August; the American Small Craft Association, offering sailing; and Row New York. From the 1964 World’s Fair, the Unisphere remains, its three rings circling the globe to represent the first three satellites to orbit the earth. Terrace on the Park, once Port Authority’s T-shaped heliport, now serves as a catering hall with remarkable views. Information about many more structures and works of art in the park can be found on a visit or by going to www.nyc.gov/parks and searching World’s Fair.

How much does New York love Flushing Meadows Corona Park and its treasures? On April 22, 2014, as Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, Assemblywoman Margaret Markey, local elected officials and community leaders cut the ribbon on the anniversary season, 2,500 people lined up to step inside the New York State Pavilion’s “Tent of Tomorrow,” where they could re-imagine the happiness, hope and promise of that beautiful spring when the 1964 Fair first opened.

Join us to celebrate it all at the World’s Fair Anniversary Festival Sunday in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

See you in the park!

Dorothy Lewandowski is Queens Parks Commissioner for NYC Parks.

 

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Pol: Trees at root of flooding problem


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

A local legislator lambasted the city for turning a blind eye to Queens homeowners tangled in sidewalk tree root problems.

The roots, which stretch out underground and penetrate through residential main sewer and water lines at least once a year, cause basement flooding and constant sewage backup, said State Senator Tony Avella.

But the city’s Department of Parks & Recreation, Avella said, has denied responsibility, saying the problems likely stem from “a pre-existing leak in the pipe itself.”

“Tree roots cannot damage sound pipes, but sometimes grow into a sewer line if there is already a leak because they follow water availability,” a Parks spokesperson said. “Therefore, the best way to prevent this from occurring is for the homeowner to have his or her sewer line repaired.”

In a November 25 letter to Avella, Parks Borough Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski said maintenance and repair of sewer systems are the responsibility of property owners, later adding that homeowners may be eligible for reimbursement for monies spent clearing their sewer lines if they file a claim with the city’s comptroller within 90 days of the incident.

“For the city to deny responsibility that the roots can’t get into a pipe is ludicrous at best,” Avella said, adding that arborist groups he has spoken to agree the city’s position was indefensible. “Tree roots will invade the pipes.”

Jamaica homeowner Shah Ahmed said he’s been plagued by the issue for years and has to shell out at least $1,400 once, sometimes twice, a year to relieve flooding, replace carpeting and fix damages to his home.

“The water is stagnant everywhere. My plumber cleaned the sewer and showed me the roots that were in the pipe. This led to a sewer backup in my basement, creating a foul odor and a health hazard,” Ahmed, 64, said. “I complained to the Parks Department many times, but nothing happened.”

Lawrence McClean, district manager of Community Board 13, said the problem affects some 7,000 residents within the community board.

The area was once served by Jamaica Water Supply Company, which made pipe repairs, but when the city took over in 1996, homeowners were then held responsible for maintenance, McClean said.

“People who bought homes in Queens initially bought homes where the agreement was that repairs would be done by the service provider, only to have the city come in and say that situation has changed,” he said. “The damage done to people like this is insurmountable. If you have a family and you want to put your children in college, then you have to make a decision between paying for this and putting your children through college.”

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.

A flourishing future for Queens parks


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Lewandowski(cropped)w

BY DOROTHY LEWANDOWSKI

Under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Borough President Helen Marshall and all of our Queens elected officials, we are continuing to benefit from the largest period of park renovation and expansion since the 1930s. Over the past decade, almost half a billion dollars has been allocated for more than 600 upcoming and completed projects in Queens parks.

We work hard to listen to and include all the communities of Queens in what we do at NYC Parks, and we’d like to share with you a look back and a look ahead as the new year begins.

This past summer’s opening of Rockaway Beach brought sand, surf, and sun, but also tacos, spring rolls, smoothies, arepas and more, thanks to an international menu from a slate of new vendors.

Those looking for something a little more active than a day at the beach were able to play cricket on the new grass cricket fields at Jamaica’s Baisley Pond Park, practice their backhand at the restored Forest Park and Astoria Park tennis courts or row around Meadow Lake, thanks to the new boat launch and restored boathouse at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

And Queens kids were able to climb, run and slide into new playgrounds at Middle Village’s Juniper Valley Park and Springfield Garden’s Montbellier Park. These 21st-century playgrounds feature challenging equipment and themed designs guaranteed to entertain even the most seasoned playground-goer.

As part of the mayor’s PlaNYC program, we’re making New York a more sustainable and livable city. One of PlaNYC’s goals has been to take advantage of existing, underutilized space and improve it for additional use. Last June, we took a space that was once blighted by giant, unused gas tanks, visible from the highway, and opened Elmhurst Park – six acres of rolling hills, expansive lawns and innovative playground equipment.

Another of the initiatives under the PlaNYC program has been to improve schoolyards and open them after school hours and on weekends for public use. Last year, we opened the city’s 200th such site when we cut the ribbon on Jackson Heights’ P.S. 69. In total, 52 Queens schoolyards have already been opened, and an additional eight are currently being improved.

Queens was particularly hard hit by the 2010 tornado and last year’s many storms, so recent Queens plantings targeted Forest Hills, Rego Park, and other communities that lost trees during these storms. As you may know, the goal of MillionTreesNYC is to plant one million trees on NYC’s streets and in our parks by 2017. Last year we reached the halfway mark, planting our 500,000th tree, including more than 120,000 new trees in Queens.

I would like to thank all of our Queens partners and elected officials who have – through advocacy, special events, and funding – “adopted” Queens’ parks as their own, and made 2011’s improvements possible.

And we’re always on the lookout for new volunteers to help keep Queens’ parks clean, green and beautiful. If you want more information about volunteer opportunities visit nyc.gov/parks.

We’re working for a greener, cleaner 2012, and look forward to seeing you in the beautiful parks of Queens!

Dorothy Lewandowski is the Parks Department’s Queens Borough Commissioner.