Tag Archives: Parks Department

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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Longtime Jamaica community garden volunteer sees role trimmed back


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Benjamin Fang

BY BENJAMIN FANG

Alberta Crowley was a star in her community, but now she says the city’s Parks Department is trying to restrict her glowing service.

The 71-year-old Queens Village resident has been volunteering at the Bricktown Community Garden on 106th Avenue and 173rd Street in Jamaica for six years. But she claims park officials have restricted her activity to a space next to the garden, called Tree of Life.

“The area here is unleveled, unsafe,” Crowley said. “They locked me out of the garden.” She said workers from the City Parks Foundation (CPF), a nonprofit that works with the Parks Department, took over about a year ago.

In the past, Crowley worked with disabled children and seniors, helping them grow fig trees, cherry trees, blueberries and grapevines. Now she said she’s not allowed to continue because she’s not certified.

“They said I can’t work here with special needs people,” Crowley said. She pointed out that she was previously given permission as a member of GreenThumb, a city community gardening education program funded by the Parks Department.

The Parks Department responded in an email that Crowley was allowed to temporarily use a portion of the City Park Foundation’s original garden, called the Learning Garden, for her workshops with adults with disabilities.

“In order to accommodate the growing demand for CPF’s educational programs, this section of CPF’s garden has been reintegrated with the rest of their garden,” a Parks Department spokesman said. “Ms. Crowley continues to be welcome to help with these workshops.”
Vanessa Smith, who advocates on Crowley’s behalf, said officials from the Parks Department want to close her off.

“They said she wasn’t allowed to go in there because she’s a volunteer and they are paid,” Smith said. “She’s doing this out of love, so why would you lock her out?”

In addition, Smith said officials from the Parks Department are not providing the support Crowley needs to maintain the smaller area she was relegated to.

“They’re not giving her the funding to upgrade it here,” Smith said. “What I think they’re trying to do is eventually take over the whole area.”

Park officials say they are providing the equipment necessary for improvements. “GreenThumb is currently purchasing lumber and soil to allow raised planting beds to be constructed,” a Parks Department spokesman said. Thirty pieces of lumber currently rest inside the Tree of Life garden.

Despite the dispute over certification and land usage, Crowley said she wants to continue what she’s been doing in the last six years.

“I want access to the area and raised beds for seniors,” she said. She hopes to continue working with people with disabilities and seniors who need wheelchair accessibility into the garden.

Crowley and Parks Department representatives are slated to meet in August, where they will discuss use of the space and possibly building a direct entrance to Tree of Life.

The City Parks Foundation did not respond to a request for comment.

 

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Structures at Fort Totten set for renovation


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Renderings courtesy NYC Department of Parks and Recreation

Upgrades are coming for buildings at the historic Fort Totten Park.

The Commanding Officer’s House and the chapel at Fort Totten are set to be revitalized, according to the Parks Department, which oversees both structures and announced Aug. 8 that it is accepting bids for a contractor to do the work.

The deteriorating roof on the Commanding Officer’s House, which is used as administrative offices for the Parks Department, will be replaced with new slate shingles, and the building’s columns and cornices will be restored to their former glory.

Also, the capitals atop the columns will be replaced with ones from the building’s original design, and the metal balcony on the second floor will be repaired.

The chapel, which hosts weddings and other catered events and is used by a Korean church, will also get new shingles for its roof and steeple. And new gutters and leaders will be installed on the roof. The project will also repair, replace and paint exterior woodwork.

Fort Totten was originally built during the Civil War, and was named in honor of Gen. Joseph Totten, who died during the war.

Many people go to Fort Totten, now a park, to swim in the pool, play on the baseball field and view the historical structures.

 

 

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Former 1964 World’s Fair office building set for upgrade


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Renderings courtesy NYC Department of Parks and Recreation


Recent talks of upgrading World’s Fair relics seem to focus on the New York State Pavilion.

But the Olmsted Center in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, which was constructed in 1964 and used as temporary offices for Robert Moses and the World’s Fair Corporation staff during the colossal event, is also getting a makeover.

The Parks Department announced Aug. 4 that it is collecting bids for a contractor to renovate the center, which is named in honor of Frederick Law Olmsted, co-designer of Central, Prospect and Riverside parks. Today, the building houses the bulk of the agency’s capital project staff.

The renovation project, which is designed by BKSK Architects, is split in two phases.

The first is the expansion of the center with a new 10,000-square-foot annex building, which is nearing completion.

The second phase, which will commence in early 2015, will technologically enhance the building and resolve flooding problems. It will include a new water channel system to lead water into bioswales that will contain and absorb it.

The renovated building will include Kebony wood for the walkways, complimented by steel railings and stainless steel cabling.

The construction will also include new siding to improve the center’s resistance to weather, and reconfiguration of the interior to accommodate employees and people with disabilities.

The bids are due Sept. 8.

 

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Vandals damage NYS Pavilion


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of John Piro

BENJAMIN FANG

Vandals caused mischief at the storied New York State Pavilion last weekend, setting a stolen van ablaze and damaging its terrazzo map, according to a member of an advocacy group for the structure.

John Piro, co-founder of the New York State Pavilion Paint Project, a local group dedicated to restoring the 1964-1965 World’s Fair figure in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, said the delinquents were causing havoc.

“They came in with a stolen van, broke the lock [of the park] and set the van on fire,” said Piro, who saw the aftermath on Monday morning after the Parks Department saw it on Sunday.

He said they also burned the tarp on the gravel, knocked down steel beams and even damaged what’s left of the Pavilion’s terrazzo map on its ground by using a cinder block to smash the map’s corner panel.

“It’s heartbreaking, after all the work we’ve done,” Piro said. “Hopefully it will never happen again.

THE COURIER/File photo

The incident, first reported by the New York Daily News, comes at the heels of the World’s Fair 50th anniversary celebration just two months ago. The Pavilion opened to the public for the first time in decades this April to also commemorate the historic event.

Last November, the Parks Department released plans to fix the relic, with cost estimates starting at $43 million. Borough President Melinda Katz created a task force of local officials, and civic and community leaders to construct a plan for the Pavilion’s future.

For now, Piro said he is just grateful nothing worse happened.

“They could have caused a lot more damage,” he said. “Now we have to try to do something preventative.” He said they’re looking into something along the lines of an alarm.

The Parks Department said it inspected the site and only found minimal damage.

“This will not have any effect on our efforts to stabilize and preserve the New York State Pavilion,” parks officials said.

The NYPD did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

 

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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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