Jan. 26, 2017 By Hannah Wulkan
The Parks Department unveiled its early plans for the $30 million revamp of Astoria Park at a tense community meeting last night.
Parks officials laid out the plans for phase one of the renovation, which will focus on the piece of the park south of the RFK Bridge that includes the track and tennis courts.
The upgrades will include redoing the track and adding a turf soccer field in the center, adding an adult fitness area, adding lighting and seating and fixing the pathways with erosion control.
The park upgrade is part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Anchor Parks initiative, under which he gave one park in each borough $30 million for upgrades and maintenance.
The meeting at the Bohemian Hall at 29-19 24th Avenue got rowdy, however, when one of the more than 300 people in attendance yelled out that he did not want money from the Anchor Parks grant to go toward a soccer field.
“How many people here even play soccer who are citizens of the United States?” he yelled, implying that only immigrants would use the field. The crowd responded primarily with boos and rebuttals. He then got in to a verbal altercation with several other crowd members before leaving the meeting.
Once the ruckus died down, the crowd split in to brainstorming groups, sharing ideas for the rest of the park.
The Parks Department hopes to complete the first phase of the project by the end of the year, said Vincent Cirrito, who works on capital construction for the parks department, though it is still early on in the process.
However the rest of the upgrade is still in the planning phase, Cirrito said, and he is unsure of exactly how many phases of the project there will be, and a lot will depend on how much Phase One ends up costing.
After the first phase, general plans for the rest of the park will include an upgraded playground, comfort station and spray showers, erosion control, added lighting and seating, and general upkeep to maintain the 100 year old park, though the exact plans are still up in the air, Cirrito said.
“I’m excited, I think there is a lot of potential in the plans, and it’s moving very quickly, which is a pleasant surprise,” said Astoria Park Alliance Chair Martha Lopez-Gilpin, adding that she was thrilled to see how much support there was in the community and within the Parks Department for more lighting and rain gardens, which would help with erosion control.
“We found a lot of common ground on those two things, and we’re just hoping to continue to see our suggestions take root and are glad to see so many people united,” she said, adding that the Astoria Park Alliance will also work to fill in the gaps and cover areas that the Anchor Park plan cannot.
One area that got tremendous community support but was not included in the initial plans presented by the Parks Department was creating waterfront access, though Lopez-Gilpin said it was likely because it would involve many more city agencies working together and cost quite a bit of money.
She added that the APA would continue working with the Parks Department towards that goal, but it would likely have to be a separate project.
The Parks Department will lay out a more comprehensive plan for the rest of the park at the Community Board 1 meeting in March, and will continue to engage the community during the planning process moving forward.