June 6, 2015 By Jackie Strawbridge
A group of park advocates would like to see upgrades to Astoria Park’s waterfront playground, but first they want to hear ideas from the families who use it.
The Astoria Park Alliance has launched an initiative to revamp Charybdis Playground, involving community interviews, surveys and visioning sessions.
Charybdis Playground is located near the Hell Gate Bridge adjacent to Shore Boulevard in Astoria Park. Though it is named for the whirling sea monster of Greek mythology, neighbors say that the playground is actually one of Astoria’s more idyllic spaces, due largely to its spot on the shoreline.
However, according to the APA, some parents feel the playground is not living up to its full potential.
APA co-chair Martha Lopez-Gilpin said that the organization has been hearing for years about crowding, aging park equipment and other issues at Charybdis Playground. In response, the APA launched a project to collect community input that they hope will ultimately lead to the playground’s renovation.
So far, the group has collected surveys and conducted a “visioning session” with parents who use the park regarding upgrades they might like to see, and is in the process of analyzing the results. Next steps include a second visioning session, and Lopez-Gilpin said the APA would also accept community input to their email at [email protected].
Ultimately, the group hopes the information it collects will support a search for funding at various levels of government.
According to Lopez-Gilpin, the APA’s preliminary research shows that parents would like to see better gates around the park, swings for older kids to accompany existing baby swings, expanded space for running and free play, and perhaps most importantly, upgraded bathrooms.
Parents who spoke with the Astoria Post at Charybdis Playground this week echoed these wishes, with overwhelming support for “big kid swings” and better bathrooms.
Exacerbating the bathroom issue this summer is the fact that the Charybdis Playground stalls are out of service for the season, while the Parks Department makes plumbing repairs, according to the agency. Portable toilets as well as a multi-stall trailer have been placed at the playground in the interim.
Although she declined to talk specifics before the City budget is finalized, Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski spoke positively about possible upgrades to Charybdis Playground.
“We do believe that there is an opportunity to re-envision,” Lewandowski said. “That playground is really the one playground for children in the park community, so you’ve got a lot of kids. I think if you give them a greater play space, it’d be wonderful.”
“The location I think is perfect, but I think we really need an update,” Shore Boulevard resident Anisa Hromic said. “It’s such a big park and there are so many people that come on the weekends here that it just becomes like a zoo.”
Lopez-Gilpin said she wants local families to know, “we are moving the ball forward.”
“We have an excellent cause and people who are willing to hear us, and we want to continue to galvanize our voices for this cause,” she added.