Aug. 18, 2016 By Hannah Wulkan
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced this afternoon that he would be allocating $150 million to five parks throughout the city, with $30 million going to preserving and improving Astoria Park.
De Blasio’s new Anchor Park Initiative, which he announced at St. Mary’s Park in the Bronx, will focus on improving five parks in under served areas.
“New Yorkers deserve to have the greatest parks in the world steps from their homes. That’s why our administration is focused on park equity, which brings fair access to and development of parks across the city,” de Blasio said.
According to the Mayor’s office, the five parks were chosen based on historical under investment, high surrounding population and potential for park development.
Councilman Costa Constantinides has advocated for funds to improve Astoria Park for the last year, and this influx of capital will bring huge improvements for Astoria Park, he said.
The last major renovation to Astoria Park happened in the 1980’s, Constantinides said, and since then, there has been very little money for necessary upkeep, though the park services over 66,000 people within walking distance.
“This is a groundswell for the neighborhood, because this is a park that is used, and the facilities are not keeping up with the use,” Constantinides said.
“There are visitors from all over the world, but even more from our own neighborhood too, and they deserve a park that keeps up with their needs. This will do real things for real peoples lives in our neighborhood.”
Constantinides said that the Parks Department will begin holding community meetings in the fall to start hearing ideas for how the funds should be spent.
Constantinides said he hopes to see the funds go toward improving and maintaining the locker rooms, improving the track area and possibly adding a soccer field in the middle, work towards erosion control on the pathways, and ADA accessibility in the parking lots and pathways, among other improvements.
Chair of the Astoria Parks Alliance Martha Lopez-Gilpin affirmed many of these needs. “Park users can see that we need support of infrastructure,” she said. “The bathrooms, the swimming pool, the dressing rooms, everything needs to be maintained, just like in a house, and the plumbing is a very important part of the house.”
Lopez-Gilpin added that upon hearing about the park funding, “We will be celebrating for sure, but along with celebration will come plans to roll up our sleeves, do the hard work, and plan for the future hard work that will come with making these improvements a reality.”
“We call these sites Anchor Parks because they provide a stabilizing, centering force for the communities they serve by offering larger and more diverse resources than smaller community parks. Now, New Yorkers in all boroughs have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make their older parks new again,” said Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver.
“Astoria Park offers numerous valuable recreational opportunities for Queens residents and will be even better place to visit thanks to the $30 million in major improvements it will receive under the Anchor Parks program,” Queens Borough President Melinda Katz said.
The other parks receiving $30 million each under the Anchor Parks initiative are Highbridge Park in Manhattan, Betsy Head Park in Brooklyn, Saint Mary’s Park in the Bronx and Freshkills Park on Staten Island.