June 27, By Jason Cohen
After a $3.5 million investment, Van Alst Playground in Astoria reopened today, making it the first neighborhood playground to be fully reconstructed under New York City’s Community Parks Initiative (CPI), a program that aims to upgrade parks in underserved areas.
The park, located on 29th Avenue (between 14th Street and 21st Street), is the first of 35 sites that was announced by Mayor de Blasio in October 2014 to receive funding for reconstruction under CPI. Almost all of those parks are in active construction and many will open in the summer and fall.
NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver, Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria), Department of Environmental Protection Deputy Commissioner Angela Licata and children from P.S. 171, gathered at Van Alst Playground today to celebrate the occasion.
“When I started as parks commissioner, the mayor tasked me with creating a fair and balanced park system for our city,” Silver said. “It is a great occasion today to cut the ribbon on the first of many park improvements coming to high-needs neighborhoods, where open space plays a critical role in community development.”
The improvements to the playground were funded by a $3 million allocation by the Mayor, as well as nearly $500,000 from the DEP for green infrastructure. The design for the project was based on community input gathered at a public meeting in December 2014.
The goal of the project was to improve the playground’s look and feel with the surrounding neighborhood and expand recreational opportunities for all age groups.
The multipurpose area was transformed from a cracked asphalt lot into a colorful, well-structured space for sports including basketball, soccer, track and painted games.
Additionally, new play equipment was installed, as well as spray showers to provide kids with a place to cool off during the hot weather. Existing handball courts were reconstructed, an adult fitness area was added and decorative light poles were installed.
Constantinides commended the mayor’s office and the parks department for renovating the park.
“Improving our parks help improve entire neighborhoods,” the councilman said. “Families near Van Alst Playground and PS 171 students will soon be able to enjoy a renovated greenspace. A new multipurpose space for sports, new play equipment, renovated handball courts, and an upgraded spray shower will enhance the recreational experience for children and parents. The green infrastructure improvements and lighting updates bring environmental and safety benefits.”
Van Alst is a jointly operated playground that is shared with P.S. 171.