July 1, 2015 By Jackie Strawbridge
Astoria resident Billy Antoniou has been playing soccer in the neighborhood all his life, but rarely on a real soccer field.
Among local players and coaches, he said, “that’s always the forefront of our conversations: what are we going to do about a field?”
He ran through the options: the free-for-all “patch of grass” at Astoria Park; the relatively far, shared field under St. Michael’s Cemetery; or traveling to dedicated soccer fields in Bayside or Whitestone.
Antoniou remembered playing on a field off of 20th Avenue as a child, which he said has since become restricted. It is a private space managed by the Federation of Italian Americans and owned by Con Edison.
“Many of the friends that I did meet growing up on that soccer field I’m still friends with to this day,” Antoniou said. “I think that would be good to bring that sense of community back to the youth of Astoria, if we had a community field where we could go and play, and feel safe.”
According to local elected officials, an urgent search for such a field has been on for years.
“There’s been a clamoring in Astoria proper for a soccer field,” Councilman Costa Constantinides said. “They’re playing it on concrete. They’re playing soccer in the middle of the [Astoria Park] track.”
“There’s much more demand than availability for a soccer field,” State Sen. Michael Gianaris agreed.
Constantindies and Gianaris, alongside Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas, are looking for sites that stretch roughly 110 yards by 70 yards for an adult field, and roughly 70 by 45 for a youth field, according to the Councilman.
Constantinides said that at this point, only land owned by the Parks Department is under serious consideration, to cut the cost of buying land from a private owner.
However, even on Parks land, creating a new field would be “not a small investment,” the Councilman noted, explaining that laying down turf, drainage and other work would run roughly $3 million.
The Councilman has been holding conversations with Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowksi on the subject.
As the search continues, Astoria’s soccer players wait anxiously on the sidelines.
Nicos Tziazas is the president of the Eleftheria Pancyprian youth soccer club, which is open to all of Queens but comprises about 90 percent Astoria residents, he said.
“[A dedicated soccer field] would benefit the kids in the community very, very much,” Tziazas said. “Having their own space, that makes its really safe – that would help the sport and would help the kids grow within their own communities.”