Tag Archives: Parks Department

Exhibition shares community ideas for Flushing Meadows Corona Park


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos by William Michael Fredericks/Courtesy of the Design Trust for Public Space

The voices of the people in the communities surrounding Flushing Meadows Corona Park have been heard, and now they will be able to share their ideas through a new exhibition at the Queens Museum.

The exhibition called “You Are Here: Creating a New Approach to Civic Participation in the World’s Park” kicked off on Sunday at the museum and highlights the individuals, process and proposals developing for Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

As the first phase of the community engagement partnership between the Parks Department, Queens Museum and nonprofit Design Trust for Public Space called “The World’s Park: Reconnecting a Regional Park with Its Neighbors,” the exhibition focuses on bringing the community, which has a passion for the future of the park, together through creative processes.

“For people who don’t feel very included in city life, like our newest New Yorkers, this park can be an opportunity for integration and to feel ownership over something,” said Maria Julia Echart, community adviser for the World’s Park project. “It’s not hard to have that feeling of inclusion when the time is taken to provide a meaningful learning experience, like with this project.”

The exhibition, which will run through May 3, features community-driven ideas that aim to enhance the access and circulation around and within the park.

Community advisers, who took the time to volunteer and become advocates, worked with community leaders and residents to deal with challenges surrounding access to the park, cultural resources, and programming for various ages.

“Located within Flushing Meadows Corona Park, we are keenly aware of the powerful symbiotic relationship between the park, community and museum, and while we are proud to partner with the NYC Parks, Design Trust and community advisers to expand the discourse and to pursue community-driven ideas that will bolster the future of Flushing Meadows Corona Park, we are even more excited to see the fruits of this endeavor shared with the community at large,” said Laura Raicovich, executive director of the Queens Museum.

Design concepts on view during the almost monthlong exhibition include items such as information kiosks, art installations for park entrances, wayfinding landmarks, and sensory play areas for children for special needs.

“We’re proud to be able to help Queens residents shape the future of Flushing Meadows Corona Park,” said Susan Chin, executive director for Design Trust for Public Space. “This exhibition is only the beginning of a true collaboration between community members and the city agencies to maximize the community use of this invaluable public resource and renowned destination in NYC.”

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Is state balking at Ridgewood Reservoir wetland declaration?


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) appears to be moving away from possible wetland status for the Ridgewood Reservoir, according to the Community Board 5 (CB 5) Parks Committee.

For nearly five years, the board and environmentalists have pressed the DEC to declare the 55-acre site on the Brooklyn/Queens border in Glendale as a wetland. The declaration would recognize the sensitive ecology that formed in the reservoir since it was taken out of the city’s water system decades ago and grant the state authority to regulate its future use.

But CB 5 recently learned that DEC officials weren’t so sure that much of the Ridgewood Reservoir meets the criteria for wetland status.

According to Steve Fiedler, CB 5 Parks Committee chair, the DEC indicated that Basin 3, the westernmost and largest of the three reservoir chambers, did not meet the minimum qualifications for a wetland. In past years, the city planned to clear this basin and transform it into athletic fields and other active park space, but those plans were scrapped due to community opposition and financial constraints.

Basin 2, the center chamber which includes a large natural lake, did not meet acreage requirements under DEC wetland criteria, but Fielder said the agency would likely declare it a wetland due to “extraordinary community concern.”

Fielder added that DEC officials indicated they did not evaluate Basin 1, the smallest and easternmost chamber, because inspectors were unable to enter due to heavy vegetation along the basin walls.

The committee co-chair charged in a phone interview that the DEC failed to properly evaluate the reservoir as a wetland, echoing sentiments in a resolution Board 5 adopted at its April 8 meeting in Middle Village.

“They did no plant evaluation, they did no soil evaluation and they did no testing,” Fiedler said. “They just went in and looked around and found it very dry after a rainstorm. They also went in during the winter when [they] shouldn’t be looking for wetland environments.”

In a letter to DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens, CB 5 District Manager Gary Giordano wrote that a preliminary assessment prepared by Round Mountain LLC for the city Parks Department “identifies an important wetland in the south end of the west basin.” Giordano noted that such characteristics were confirmed in a site visit by Round Mountain officials last May.

“It is very important that NYS DEC engage in an in-depth study of plant life at the Ridgewood Reservoir, and that in-depth soil samples be taken, and not limited to the dry season,” Giordano wrote to Martens. “If it is not feasible for NYS DEC to conduct the necessary plant life studies required for wetland determination in the spring and summer, DEC should be able to rely on expert studies that have been performed during the past 15 years related to the Ridgewood Reservoir.”

The DEC did not immediately return a request for comment.

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Sunnyside playground unveils renovations, months ahead of schedule


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirano

Children and families in Sunnyside will now have a new place to enjoy the warm weather.

Local elected officials, community leaders and Parks Department representatives joined families on Tuesday morning to unveil the newly-renovated Lance Corporal Thomas P. Noonan Playground located at the intersection of 43rd Street and Greenpoint Avenue.

The $2 million makeover, which was funded by Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, was completed two months ahead of schedule and features new accessible play equipment, more swings, a play area for children from 2 to 5 years old and another for children 5 to 12 years old, and a new rainbow spray shower.

“The improvements to Noonan Playground are a perfect example of our community coming together and developing a project that all residents can enjoy,” Van Bramer said. “Between new plantings, additional play equipment, a new and improved Rainbow sprinkler as well as a one-of-a-kind historic memorial for our local veterans, we have solidified Noonan Playground as one of the borough’s top destinations to spend an afternoon with the family.”

Photo courtesy of Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer's office

Photo courtesy of Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer’s office

The renovations also include additional planted areas created within the playground, along Greenpoint Avenue and 43rd Street, improvements in site drainage and lighting, and new bike racks, benches, paving and fencing. The main entrance to the playground was also reconstructed.

“Just in time for spring, kids of all abilities will be able to enjoy this new play space with more swings, a separate area for toddlers, and new spray showers,” said Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver. “When the sun comes out in Sunnyside, this is sure to be a popular destination.”

Along with redesigning and expanding the playground, a monument was built to commemorate Sunnyside Vietnam veteran Lance Corporal Thomas P. Noonan.

A plaque was also installed honoring local veterans from the neighborhood, such as Donald C. Breuer, who was killed in action in 1972 at 26 years old during the Vietnam War. Breuer’s name is also included on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C.

“I am thrilled that Sunnysiders will get to enjoy the new and improved Thomas P. Noonan playground ahead of schedule, and just in time for spring,” said state Senator Michael Gianaris. “This park is not only a monument to veterans and a Sunnyside hero, but also an escape from city life that provides local children with the open space they desperately need.”

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Parents call for permanent annex at Corona’s P.S. 143 to alleviate overcrowding


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photos by Angy Altamirano

Parents at one Corona school are saying enough is enough and are calling on officials to give their children more room to succeed.

Over a hundred parents and children gathered on Tuesday morning with state Senator Jose Peralta outside of P.S. 143, The Louis Armstrong Elementary School, located at 34-74 113th St., to propose the building of a permanent addition to the school to help alleviate the chronic overcrowding.

According to Peralta, the Corona elementary school was originally built to accommodate 900 students, yet currently there are about 1,800 students enrolled at the site. This causes some children to have lunch at 9:50 a.m. and a large number of students have to take their classes outside of the school’s building.

The new annex would replace a mini building and six temporary classroom units, also known as trailers, which are found on the side of the school’s original building. Some students have also been moved to an annex located at 98th Street and 38th Avenue. 

“We need to have real classrooms for our children. A trailer is no place for a kid to be learning and that’s something that we’ve been saying time and time again to the administration,” Peralta said. “No kid should have to learn in a trailer. Forget about the state-of-the-art classrooms, state-of-the-art technology, we just want every student to sit and get an education in a real classroom.

Peralta first proposed the idea of the annex to the Department of Education two years ago, and was told that the agency agreed with the need for a solution to alleviate the overcrowding at P.S. 143. However issues arose because the property where the building would go is owned by the Parks Department. 

Yet the senator said that the building of a new annex would not affect the recreational areas because it would only take up the space already being used by the mini building and trailers. 

“Enough of the talk – we need the walk, we need actions. It is time to act now,” Peralta said. “This is the 21st century. We need to treat our kids like we are in the 21st century,”

Parents said they are concerned because their young children, mostly first-graders, have to go from one location to another during bad weather conditions and are also learning in classrooms with over 30 students. 

The parents added that they call on representatives of the Department of Education, Parks Department and School Construction Authority to believe that it was their children being made to learn in these conditions. 

“We are fighting and no one listens to us and we are tired of this situation,” said Juana de los Santos, who has two children attending P.S. 143. “I believe our children deserve a good education because they are the future of this country. We want an answer and soon, we don’t want them to tell us ‘Here, in five years it will happen.’ We are tired and our children are suffering.”

According to DOE spokesman Jason Fink, the agency is “working with the Parks Department to explore ways to add capacity at this school.”

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Parks Department announces start of Evergreen Park project in Glendale


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

File photo

Work began this week on the long-awaited reconstruction of Glendale‘s Evergreen Park, the Parks Department announced.

The first phase of renovations to the 1.1-acre green space on 60th Place between 75th and St. Felix avenues includes removing “underused” bocce and shuffleboard courts in order to reconstruct an expanded playground that will feature, among other amenities, new spray showers.

“We expect construction to take about a year to complete, and look forward to reopening this playground next spring,” a Parks Department spokesperson said. “This work has been funded with $1 million from [City Councilwoman Elizabeth] Crowley.”

Crowley, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and Mayor Bill de Blasio also allocated $2.4 million for the second phase of Evergreen Park’s reconstruction, which will include a new asphalt playing area. According to the Parks Department spokesperson, the agency will seek “design consultant services for this project shortly.”

Plans to reconstruct Evergreen Park date back to September 2012, when Parks Department representatives outlined plans at a Community Board 5 Parks Services Committee meeting. Other components of the reconstruction’s first phase include the installation of new plantings and “World’s Fair-style” benches, new fencing, updated water fountains and a remodeled swing area.

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More tree removal in Howard Beach


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Salvatore Licata

“X” marks the spot to chop.

The Parks Department has come into Howard Beach for a second round of tree removal.

This is a continuation of the previous tree removal process that took place in September. All Sandy-stricken trees that the Parks Department feels are too far gone and not likely to survive will be cut down and replaced, according to the agency. There is still not an exact number for how many trees will be cut as the agency is still surveying the area.

“The trees marked with an ‘X’ are indeed part of the Sandy removal and replacement efforts, and are scheduled to be removed and replaced over the next year,” a Parks spokeswomen said. “The total number of trees is still evolving and continues to do so as we mark additional trees.”

The Parks Department is still in the process of replanting the ones they took down in September.

At the time, the Parks Department cut down nearly 500 trees in the confines of Community Board 10. These were part of the 48,000 trees citywide they looked at to see if they should be removed.

DSC_0791

To coincide with the project, there is a citywide initiative to plant one million trees throughout the five boroughs. At this point, the city has planted over 938,000 trees since 2007, when the program started. They plan to have the full million planted by 2017.

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Forest Park sinkhole all patched up


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Salvatore Licata

The sinkhole that has blocked the entrance path to Forest Park for years is finally fixed, according to the city Parks Department.

The contractor has finished the work to fix the hole, including clearing and upgrading existing drainage systems, reconstructing the sidewalk and stabilizing the adjacent slope.

The final portion of the project is to repave the strip with new asphalt, which will be completed once the weather permits, according to a Parks Department spokesperson.

The hole is located on the entrance path to the park from Woodhaven Boulevard. According to locals, the sinkhole started about two years ago and has been getting worse ever since it first appeared. It was most likely caused by runoff that deteriorated the catch basin beneath the roadway, the department spokesperson said.

Repair crews began work to fix the problems that caused the sinkhole last September after The Queens Courier first reported the gaping hole. The sidewalk has been closed off since but will reopen once the paving is completed. The schedule for the paving work depends on the weather.

sinkole_before

The hole before it was fixed.

When The Courier first reported on the situation in early September, the hole was covered by steel barricades, leaving a small path for people to still use the sidewalk. This worried locals said they believed one false step could possibly launch a pedestrian right into the hole causing major injuries.

But parkgoers will no longer have to worry as the hole is completely patched.

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$1.2M to reconstruct park in Jamaica


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

Captain Tilly Park will be getting a face-lift thanks to new funding proposed by the City Council.

The Parks Department broke ground this week to help clean up the park. Under the $1.2 million project, crews will remove invasive plants in the northern half of the park and replant with native ones that will help to combat the erosion of the area. Along with the plantings, pathways will be repaved and their drainage system will be improved.

“The first phase of renovation will increase the biodiversity and ecological richness of Captain Tilly Playground, while also addressing the park’s drainage and erosion issues,” said Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski. “We are thankful for the City Council’s support of this important work and look forward to opening a greener and greater park.”

The first round of renovations, which include the projects above, is expected to take about a year to complete.

The second round of renovations will address the plaza area and surrounding landscape near the Tilly memorial. The Parks Department said they will add new asphalt pathways, fencing, granite pavement, benches, drainage, lighting and landscaping.

This portion of the project is expected to start in the fall of 2015 and take about a year to complete.

“I’m pleased to see the beginning of these renovations to Captain Tilly Park,” Councilman Rory I. Lancman said. “Properly removing and replacing the invasive plant species and preventing erosion into Goose Pond is the foundation for a lively, healthy park.”

Army Capt. George Tilly, the son of a prominent Jamaica family, died in the Philippines in 1899 when U.S. forces were fighting Filipino rebels for control of the colony, which was among the territories Spain ceded to the U.S. after the Spanish-American War. A monument to the heroes of the Spanish-American War was erected in the park in 1941.

The park, once used to raise ducks and geese, is located between Gothic Drive and Highland Avenue, west of 164th Street.

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Fort Totten’s historic buildings in danger because of neglect


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Fort Totten’s history is slowly fading away.

The historic Bayside park is home to several dilapidated and historic buildings that have been sitting vacant and in need of repair, according to the Bayside Historical Society. The oldest among these is the Willets Farmhouse, built in 1829, making it the oldest building in the area.

Despite the deteriorating conditions none of the buildings will be repaired anytime soon, according to city records.

“We would like to see them all being used so they’re not lost to history,” said Paul DiBenedetto, president of the historic society, who said that the Parks Department hasn’t done enough work on the older buildings to preserve them. “I see the realism of it but I don’t like the fact they abandoned these buildings.”

A Parks Department spokeswoman said that the farmhouse was worked on in 2013 to stabilize it but the area is completely fenced off and no one is allowed inside to check the building’s condition. Abandoned NYC, a website devoted to decaying sites, published a photo tour of some of the buildings in 2012.

The park has more than 100 structures that were built between 1829 and the 1960s. In 1999 it was landmarked as a historical site because many of the buildings “have a special character and special historical and aesthetic interest and value which represent one or more eras in the history of New York City,” the Landmarks Preservation Commission wrote, “and which cause this area, by reason of these factors, to constitute a distinct section of the city.”

Part park, Fort Totten is also part office space for various government entities like the FDNY and the Parks Department, among many other agencies.

The Parks Department is in the planning phase of a $2.1 million restoration project, of the roofs of two historic buildings: the Chapel and the Commander’s House, both of which were built in the early 1900s, a parks spokeswoman said. But construction won’t begin until next year, leaving the two historic buildings exposed to rain and other natural elements that will eat away at the building.

The groundskeeper for the park said that if something isn’t done soon, the buildings would be damaged beyond repair. And as winter approaches, groundskeeper Mac Harris knows that the buildings will suffer.

“The roofs are not being repaired,” Mac Harris said. “The buildings are slowly being decayed.”

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Parks Department announces construction for Little Bay Park’s soccer field will begin in 2015


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

The City Council is kicking in more than $1 million to fix up Little Bay Park’s long-neglected soccer field.

Last year, $1.6 million was allocated by City Council, and the money will go to replacing the old soccer field’s turf with a new natural turf made of sand and soil, according to Community Board 7. The Parks Department will also be installing new benches, drinking fountains, plants and trees. The new turf will have a second use as a bioswale, a feature that would prevent storm water runoff from going into the bay.

Construction will begin in fall 2015 and will take a whole year to be completed. During that time, the site will be fenced in. The Parks Department is also currently working on a comfort station in the park.

Earlier this year, Alfredo Centola, a member of Malba Gardens Civic Association wrote an open letter to the Parks Department urging the city to move quickly on fixing the soccer field.

“We understand there is money to replace at least one field if not both,” he wrote. “We have been trying for years to get these fields repaired and or replaced, let alone maintained.”

Centola observed that the park had tire marks in it, along with rocks and pebbles. He continued, “Your assistance in remediating this field ASAP would be greatly appreciated. As you are aware, soccer season is fast approaching and practices have already been scheduled. Mind you, this is a soccer field that is scheduled to be used by over 600 community children beginning this week. The wood chips and the tire groves that are over 6 inches deep should not be here.”

The majority of the $1.6 million was secured by then-Councilman Dan Halloran in 2013. The Parks Department didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment.

Community board members welcomed the news, saying that the field is in need of new turf because the current ground is rough and people easily get cut on it. The Parks Department expects the new turf to last for at least 15 years.

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Queens Museum, Parks Dept. ask communities to redesign Flushing Meadows


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Cristabelle Tumola

What will Flushing Meadows Corona Park look like in the future? The Queens Museum and the Parks Department are asking members of communities around the park to come up with ideas and solutions to make the green space more accessible to local communities.

“This is a bit of an experiment,” said Jose Serrano, the museum’s community organizer. “Instead of having people give us their ideas in some kind of meeting, we asked, why don’t we equip them with the tools to improve the park creatively and practically.”

Serrano and the Parks Department are asking the public to submit ideas on how to improve the parks connection and the way it’s used with the surrounding neighborhoods.

The deadline is Oct. 25 and 20 people will be chosen to create an exhibition project that will be shown next year at the museum. Over the course of a year, the 20 selected people will learn more about the park and its pros and cons through a series of hands-on learning events.

Serrano said that they will be only accepting people from communities like Flushing, Corona and Forest Hills because they are directly connected to the park.

“They’re meant to be community designs,” he said. “And we want to give people the confidence to talk to decision makers.”

At the museum’s exhibition, the community members will present their ideas to these “decision makers” and, Serrano hopes, affect change in how the park can be changed.

The park was created for the 1939-40 Worlds Fair and as a fair ground, Serrano said, it is designed to control who enters the area. But now, as a public park, a design for controlling fare-goers no longer makes sense.

“The park will be changed to make it more open to people,” Serrano said. “Can we put the community’s signature on the solutions?”

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Parks Department collecting bids to reconstruct Astoria’s Paul Raimonda Playground


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of Department of Parks and Recreation 

The Parks Department started collecting bids Tuesday to renovate Astoria’s Paul Raimonda Playground and expects to begin construction in the spring of 2015.

The project, which was announced last year and received $1.56 million from the City Council and the mayor’s office, includes removing the bocce courts, adding adult fitness equipment, repairing the flag pole base, relocating the seating area, replacing play equipment, installing new planting beds and repaving asphalt areas throughout the playground located on 20th Avenue between 47th and 48th streets.

Also, to give the park a more local touch, the children’s spray shower in the park will be reconstructed in the shape of a baby grand piano, to pay homage to Steinway & Sons, the piano manufacturer that is located a few blocks away.

Renovation of the park will also address drainage issues, by surrounding trees with plant beds instead of existing cobblestones.

Paul Raimonda was a community leader and life-long resident of nearby Long Island City. He attended William C. Bryant High School and served four years in the Army Air Corps during World War II, according the Parks Department.

The bids are due back by Oct. 22.

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Parks Department closes Oakland Lake Park for one year


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Edward Mertz

The Parks Department closed Oakland Lake Park in Bayside last week to begin a huge one-year construction project. The project will include the installation of stone swales (similar to bioswales), cleaning the drainage system and planting new native wetland plants, according to the Parks Department.

The $2.5 million project’s aim is to improve water quality by reducing the amount of sewage water seeping into the lake during rainstorms, but some park-goers believe that closing the whole section of the park is a drastic move and it will leave many in the community at a loss for recreational activities. 

Eugene Harris, a professor at Queensborough Community College, is skeptical about how necessary the changes are. Harris maintains a Queensborough nature blog devoted to the flora and fauna of the park.

The lake, which is part of the larger Alley Pond Park, borders the college and Harris said that many students and faculty visited the lake to escape the stress of academics. But since the city fenced off the 46-acre area until next fall, the public is restricted from using any part of it.

“It’s crazy that they’re caging in the entire lake,” Harris said. “I can’t see why they couldn’t do it in portions so that the public can at least enjoy part of it.”

A Parks Department spokeswoman said it is necessary to keep the park closed for public safety and so that contractors can work unhindered. The spokeswoman noted that closing a park for major construction like this is typical procedure.

The Parks Department announced the project in 2011.

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Gaping sinkhole in Forest Park worries locals


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

Forest Park is home to an 18-hole golf course, but a 19th hole in the park is cause for some concern.

For about two years now, there has been a gaping sinkhole along the entrance path to the park from Woodhaven Boulevard. It was most likely caused by runoff into or deterioration of a catch basin beneath the roadway, according to a representative from the Parks Department.
Locals say it is a major hazard because of where it is situated.

“The sinkhole is right across the street from the carousel, which is a major attraction for children,” said Ed Wendell, a frequent visitor of Forest Park. “It is only a matter of time before someone gets seriously injured and everyone starts saying, ‘Why wasn’t this fixed already?’”

The hole is currently barricaded off and has caution tape around it. It takes up almost the whole sidewalk, forcing people to walk in a single-file line to get past it.

The Parks Department is working on plans to fix it.

“Parks is currently assessing the extent of work that will be required to repair this sinkhole and fix its underlying cause,” the representative said. “Once this assessment has been completed, we will procure a contractor to complete this work.”

There was no timeline given on how long it will take to start the work, but Wendell said he is encouraged that something may finally be done about this ongoing safety issue.

“I’m glad they are aware of the problem and looking into it,” Wendell said. “But we will only be relieved when it is finally taken care of.”

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Parks Department postpones decade-long Whitestone project


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Parks Department

The completion of Little Bay Park’s comfort station is being postponed yet again, officials said.

The Parks Department said the most recent delay was due to a harsh winter and an unusually high amount of soil that had to be removed from the construction site.

The new deadline for completion is set for next spring and, once finished, it will end a project that has sputtered along for a decade.

State Sen. Tony Avella and former U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman secured millions of dollars in 2004 to install bathrooms and expand the parking lot.

As of now, visitors to the park and Fort Totten must use portable toilets.

The department finally broke ground last year and announced that the whole project would be finished this fall.

But that deadline is going to be missed, according to a spokesman for the Parks Department.

While the bathrooms won’t be completed until next year, the Parks Department plans to complete a 100-space parking lot and install bioswales to absorb stormwater runoff this fall.

The current budget for everything is $6.659 million, a higher amount than Avella and Ackerman collected in 2004.

As construction continues, the majority of the park, which is named after the bay it faces, is fenced off.

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