Tag Archives: Frank M. Charles Memorial Park

Howard Beach sisters demand improvements to Frank M. Charles Memorial Park

| amatua@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angela Matua

They just want their park back.

That is the message Sheri Volkes and Debra McCann are trying to relay to the National Parks Service about Frank M. Charles Memorial Park in Howard Beach.

The sisters have lived in Howard Beach for two years, and Volkes said Charles Park was a big part of their attraction to the neighborhood. But the sisters quickly realized that the federal park was not being maintained.

“The beach is filled with debris,” Volkes said. “The handball courts are disgraceful. The basketball courts are disgraceful. The park is supposed to be closed at dusk and nobody patrols it. Nobody stops anything.”

Volkes said people from outside of the Howard Beach community use the beach for sacrificial rituals and residents frequently see and smell dead chickens and rotting fruit. People also barbecue on the grassy area by placing the charcoal directly onto the grass, which damages the area, she said.

Volkes and her sister started an online petition that has garnered 356 signatures so far and also held a petition drive two weeks ago to persuade others in the community to sign it. Volkes and McCann, who have dubbed themselves “two girls on a mission” will be hosting another petition drive this Saturday and representatives from Melinda Katz’ office will be there to inspect the neglected park.

“I love that park and it could be a beauty if taken care of properly,” Vicki Carbone said in a post on the online petition.

The baseball fields in the park were recently renovated after several residents, including local softball team X-Bays, told Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder about the poor conditions. But Volkes said those changes are not enough.

“The park needs to be cleaned,” Volkes said. “It needs to be restored. The handball courts need to be painted. The playground needs to be safe. The rituals need to stop. The residents are tired of hearing the beating drums, the stench from whatever is burning.”

Daphne Yu, a spokesperson for the National Parks Service said that the agency has collaborated with community groups throughout the year to keep the park clean. According to Yu, the agency is working with the Charles Park Conservation Society through a youth employment program to have two students at the park three times a week for maintenance.

“This is all above and beyond the maintenance and cleanup our own staff provides for this site, which happens daily,” Yu said.

She also said that any group that wants to help keep the area clean can contact Keith White, volunteer coordinator for the park at Keith_White@nps.gov.

Volkes said it should not be the responsibility of Howard Beach residents to clean up the park, especially if people outside of the community are the ones causing the damage.

“It’s sad when a kid comes over to you and says, ‘I hope you clean up the park because this way my parents will take me there,'” Volkes said.



Identify this place in Queens

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


Do you know where in Queens this photo was taken? Guess by commenting below! The answer will be revealed next week.

Last week’s answer to “Identify this Place”: Frank M. Charles Memorial Park

Frank M. Charles Memorial Park




Charles Park gets post-Sandy makeover

| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of SCA

Howard Beach’s Frank M. Charles Memorial Park at long last got a makeover after Sandy swept through last October.

The Student Conservation Association (SCA) joined the Parks Department and the Jamaica Bay Restoration Corps to make fixes at Frank Charles Park still needed after Sandy.

Twenty high school students ages 15 to 19 came out to dig, fill ditches, paint and clean beaches and more over a two-week period in July.

“[The students] are doing meaningful work to try and get this neighborhood back to the level they were at before Sandy hit,” said Diane Stanley, program manager for SCA’s New York City and New Jersey Sandy Recovery.

Half of the students cleaning up in Howard Beach were from Sandy Hook, New Jersey, an area also heavily hit by Sandy. Stanley said the intermingling of the students, along with seeing the different affected areas, is rewarding for them.

The Sandy Recovery program is also working throughout areas of Brooklyn, Staten Island and New Jersey.

In Howard Beach, the SCA, Parks and Jamaica Bay Restoration Corps are moving towards “recovery and resiliency,” Stanley said.

Jayden Nelson, 17, an SCA volunteer, said before starting on the Howard Beach project, he did not know what conservation meant. He discovered it meant “restoring all parts,” and with that, he jumped into the SCA clean-up.

“I thought if I could help somebody else, that would be great,” he said. “It feels great that you’ve contributed to someone else’s home and life.”

Nelson said the residents around the park have watched and encouraged the clean-up team, expressing gratitude throughout the process.

“This neighborhood was destroyed, so now I feel like I’m a part of this community because I get to help restore it to what it was,” said Nelson’s brother 14-year-old brother Treson.

He added that outside of restoring the area, he has enjoyed spending time with his coworkers and meeting new people.

“I’m not a people person, but everybody I’ve met has been great. We’ve been having a lot of fun,” he said.



Howard Beach event raises more than $100K for cancer research, services

| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Terence M. Cullen

All those who knew Loren Licausi describe her as strong, independent and caring.

One of her best friends, Lauren Lafemina, said her character left a noticeable mark on people.

Licausi passed away in February from acute myeloid leukemia — a form of cancer that starts with bone marrow — which she was diagnosed with only months earlier. She was 19.

“Love for Lauren,” the team formed in her honor, was one of many to participate at this year’s Howard Beach Relay for Life at Frank M. Charles Memorial Park.

Cancer survivors along with family and friends of people who have lost their bouts with the disease created special messages of tribute on white paper bags.

The Saturday, June 8 event raised more than $100,000 for cancer research and services. The Howard Beach Relay for Life has raised roughly $750,000 since it started five years ago, according to co-organizer Phillys Inserillo.

Licausi’s memorial team included her family and friends from both the neighborhood and Mount St. Mary College, where she was a freshman.

“We just wanted to do something in her memory,” said Lafemina, who also worked with her. “We all became friends through this.”

Family friend Angela San Phillipo helped organize a fundraiser for Licausi at St. Helen’s Church earlier this year. It raised more than $20,000. San Phillipo said Licausi had been looking forward to seeing videos and photos from the event.

“She was really a very special kid,” she added.

Another team, “Sebastian’s Friends Forever,” was formed in honor of eight-year-old Sebastian Oseff. He recently lost his own battle with cancer. The team raised more than $2,000 for Relay for Life, according to the event’s website, surpassing its original aim of $1,000.

Inserillo, who coordinates the walk with Melissa Fochetta, said part of the goal has always been to bring the community together for a single cause. She added that this year that was particularly important since the area is still recovering from Sandy.

“We wanted to do the event for the cancer survivors,” Inserillo said. “But we also wanted to have an event where the community could come together and celebrate their resilience.”



Bikes, kayaks get green light in Jamaica Bay

| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYC Parks and Recreation

Jamaica Bay visitors are about to get a little bike for their bucks.

The Parks Department announced California-based Wheel Fun Rentals has received the license agreement for much-discussed bike and kayak stands throughout Jamaica Bay.

A site in Queens opened at Rockaway’s Jacob Riis Park over Memorial Day Weekend, according to the Parks Department, with another site at Riis Landing expected to open in mid-June.

“Millions of people visit the parks and beaches at Jamaica Bay and the Rockaways each summer and this concession provides a fun and new recreational amenity,” Parks Commissioner Veronica M. White said in a statement.

Requests for Proposals (RFPs) were released in March to build stands around the park in a pre-Sandy project between the National Park Service and the Parks Department.

Howard Beach residents were upset the Frank M. Charles Memorial Park was included in the proposals even while the park was in dire need of repairs. At Community Board (CB) 10’s April meeting, members asked a Parks representative to consider taking Charles Park off the RFP until something was done to clean it up.

CB10 chair Elizabeth Braton said she’s happy Charles Park was not included in the plan and is hopeful authorities will focus on cleaning it up instead.

“I’m very glad that they took our advice and decided go with appropriate locations,” she said.

Braton added that the board would be open to including Charles Park in future proposals if a clean-up takes place.



Six months after Sandy, Charles Park gets clean-up

| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File phoot

Frank M. Charles Memorial Park is getting spruced up.

With Sandy debris lingering nearly six months after the storm, Councilmember Eric Ulrich has partnered with the Doe Fund to help clean up the community park, which is run under the auspices of by Gateway National Recreation Area.

Nine “men in blue” from the Doe Fund, which finds work for homeless men and women, will help remove debris in what is considered a neighborhood park, although it’s under the National Park Service (NPS) umbrella.

Ulrich said he reached out to George McDonald, president and founder of the Doe Fund, after coverage of the park’s worsened condition following the storm.

“This was a reaction to the published newspaper reports about the terrible conditions in Charles Park,” Ulrich said.

The councilmember said further pressure had to be put on NPS to secure that Charles Park and other parts of Gateway get the same attention that parks across the country do.

“It’s an absolute disgrace,” Ulrich said of the delayed clean up, adding it should not have taken a storm like Sandy to bring the park’s conditions to the public eye. “The federal government has to live up to their obligation.”

McDonald, who partnered with Ulrich to bring workers to Broad Channel after the storm, said the program won’t only clean up the park, but give the crew a second chance.

“For the past 25 years, New Yorkers have been so generous to The Doe Fund and to the ‘men in blue’—helping their fellow New Yorkers to re-establish their careers and become fathers to their children,” McDonald said. “We are grateful for the opportunity to give back. I thank Councilmember Ulrich for thinking of us.”

Community Board 10 recently voiced opposition to a proposal from Gateway and NYC Parks Department that listed Charles Park as a possible site for concession stands, bike terminals or kayak launching bays. Board members first want the park to be cleaned up, and get more outreach from Gateway, before anything else comes in.

“It’s my understanding that Doe fund is volunteering labor to do it, which is certainly commendable,” said board chair Elizabeth Braton. “However, it does not remove the obligation of the Parks Service to provide continuous, ongoing maintenance at the facilities they are responsible for.”



Pols push for improvements to Charles Park

| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/photo by Mike DiBartolomeo

Piles of trash in tall grass are just yards away from baseball fields where the pitcher’s mounds have nearly leveled with home plate. Behind home plate, there are cracks in the sidewalks that are overgrown with grass and weeds. Not much further from this scene is a picnic table, worn from years of use.

These are just some of the images of Frank M. Charles Memorial Park in Howard Beach, which officials and residents say has been neglected for years by the National Park Service (NPS).

Assemblymember Philip Goldfeder and Senator Charles Schumer recently sent a letter to NPS with concerns about upkeep of the park that residents claim has been inconsistent and underfunded for years.

“Frank M. Charles Memorial Park, a treasured resource for the residents of Howard Beach, has long been a popular location for youth sports games and family outings. But the park has seen better days,” Schumer said. “The level of deterioration at the park is unacceptable, and that’s why I’m urging the National Park Service to step up to the plate and clean it up so local residents get the park they deserve.”

Goldfeder said he and Schumer decided to urge for better maintenance now as summer heats up and pollution in the park has increased.

“I think it was time we sort of formalize our request that we’re serious about it and we’re not going to stop until we see some improvement,” Goldfeder said.

The assemblymember said NPS typically focuses its spending on West Coast parks and will sometimes forget about eastern areas.

He added that “Howard Beach is a beautiful community and we deserve a beautiful park.”

In the past, Goldfeder said he’s led cleanup efforts throughout the greenspace, but it needs consistent maintenance and not quick fixes.

Dorothy McCluskey, who heads the Friends of Charles Park group, has worked for nearly two decades to ensure the park is clean.

The Parks Service, she said, had not been allocating funds to, or regularly caring for, what she calls “the jewel of Jamaica Bay.” She cited poorly repaired tennis courts and baseball fields as some of the problems reported to the NPS.

John Warren, an NPS spokesperson for the area, said the agency was working the city to improve all parks near Jamaica Bay. Warren said plans with the city were “still in the early stages, but it’s going to help us pool our resources together…to provide better services to people at all of our parks in the Jamaica Bay area.”

Garbage, he said, is a problem endemic to all greenspaces, and NPS is continuing to clean the park.

“Trash is an issue at any park,” he said, “and it’s something we’re working on further improving.”

Howard Beach ‘Lights’ the way

| tpetropoulosedit@queenscourier.com


Once again Howard Beach came together to stand up to cancer.

More than $150,000 was raised at the Fourth Annual Relay for Life of Howard Beach by 302 participants and 37 teams. The event, which took place on June 9 and 10, was sponsored by the American Cancer Society and held at Frank M. Charles Memorial Park.

About $600,000 has been raised over the four years the event has been held, said Phyllis Inserillo, the relay’s organizer.

Increasing awareness to the community was an extremely important component of the event and was the most rewarding part, Inserillo said.

“In Howard Beach, not only do we raise the money, we raise awareness in our local schools, local businesses, churches and whoever will allow us to get to the kids and the young people of our generation and let them know how important early prevention is,” she said. “[We want them] to understand that cancer unfortunately affects everyone in one way or another.”

The afternoon was spent playing sports and dancing, and included a special performance by the lead singer of the freestyle group TKA.

Once the sun set, those who have lost their battle with cancer were remembered with a Luminaria ceremony. Participants shared personal stories and watched a slide show dedicated to the memories of those lost.

“It was the culmination of the evening, to remember all those we’ve lost in the fight,” said Inserillo. “Really, that’s what the event is all about: to see so many people and to know they aren’t the only ones who’ve been through it.”

Kim Trinchese, a cancer survivor and leader of the team Forever Friends, was this year’s honoree. Her team, comprised of family members from across the country, raised $21,908 – the third highest amount of any team this year. HB Relay Rocks came in first, with $53,621 in donations.

“Relay For Life is so important,” said Trinchese. “We need to get the word out so more people can get involved and give back. We should all be grateful.”

Inserillo said with the progress the event has made every year since starting, next year they will be able to reach the million dollar mark in funds raised.