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.
What is the status for Softball Fields? Are they included as an essential need? Both men and women and school teams would benefit from this. It would be a constant used area. We need to have coed inclusive sports in our public park.
I think people way overestimate how much money $30m really is. It is not an unlimited flow of money, and it will go fast. Start with basics, long term issues, erosion, and the things EVERYONE needs, like good paths, and modern, functional restrooms. (Seriously, has anyone looked at that restroom in the playground on 21st Street?.).
I use the track frequently and I oppose the soccer field on many bases.
1. Will push out the current users, mixed uses, track/field activities, exercise groups, etc.
2. That fake turf is not healthy (I thought Constantinides was concerned about environmental?) and it is UGLY.
3. Tree removal
4. Would require a fence to protect runners – would have to be a tall fence to work, which would be UGLY and would turn the soccer field into a cage.
5. Considering the way this country is now, why press in issue that so many people are against? We need to look at what we agree on first.
I still find it pretty absurd that none of the $30M is going to renovate and upkeep the Astoria Skatepark. The amount of public support for skatepark renovations has been very high from my attendance at both community meetings. The general ask is for lighting improvements, and that large cracks at the park get filled. Pretty modest and reasonable demands given the $30M of funding. Anyone who frequents the park will easily notice that the skatepark is one of the most utilized public spaces in the entire park. It is used by a broad spectrum of people, races, and age groups. It is unfortunate that none of the awarded money is going into maintaining this already developed and budding public space in the park. This level of funding is extremely rare and I doubt that Astoria Park will see funding like this for the foreseeable future. Neglecting to renovate the skate park now when the funds are readily available will mean that the park will have more cracks and will be less accessible for future generations which is truly saddening. Please reconsider allocating some of the granted funding to fix this beloved public space.
Everything is changing in Astoria especially the look. One day all one-two family homes will be gone. Perhaps, one day we may say, “whatever happen to Astoria”? Save the progress crap. Just leave the look of the Deco style of the Astoria Pool. It has a lot of history.
I am very happy for the good news about our park,i live in Astoria for 46 years,and I love it,it would be very nice if we had a nice coffee shop there,to enjoy our coffee,watching the sunset and the beautiful view,in every park in Europe that I went ,there was a coffee place,it is a very nice ideal,I believe,good luck!!!!!
Y’all realize that Astoria has a lot of Europeans and Middle Eastern folks, yeah? And literally every other country on the planet plays and follows soccer, yeah? See where I’m going with this?
Being against a soccer field is silly, especially given that it’s a rectangle game with grass and two goals. You can do anything in the field, not just play soccer.
I do hope the money is spent wisely and does not include an expense of $2 million for a bathroom, as was the case at the site of the Elmhurst gas tanks when they were removed and the property turned into a park. Good luck with the project. Look forward to seeing the end result.
They always cater to foreigners maaaaan. But us asians who were born here get nothin maaaan. We dont need the soccer field. They can do something better with the money.
I was unable to attend the meeting last night and was sadden to hear about the thought of one persons opinion be made into a racist remark we all have right to speak and we all have right to remark on what was said but not in a harsh manner the park is for everyone and everyone should respect the park and use it for what it is made for a place to come and enjoy with there family’s remember respect go’s a long way and everyone need to remember this
There are so many groups that play soccer at Astoria park, starting from pee wee groups to adults. There isn’t an appropriate area and it’s been killing the grass on the lawns. Astoria park needs a soccer field. I run there ALL. THE. TIME. I see people needing a place to play soccer at all the various times I’m there!
I am a long time astoria resident ive been here for 39 years im glad that the park is going to be fixed. You should listen to the residents who live in this neighborhood for a long time there opinion matters they have been useing the park for a long time i care about astoria and i cant wait to see the new renovation of the park a concerend astoria resident.
Does the $30 million upgrade involve the diving pool amphitheater?
The pool won’t be touched much apparently it’s too expensive. I was very disappointed about this.
1) I think the story with the elderly gentlemen regarding the soccer field was a bit misconstrued; don’t know why you implied it was “against immigrants” when he just stated it was non-American (thinking sport – my opinion). I do disagree with the statement and the much younger man that jumped aggressively in his face, obviously opposing the elders statement was abhorent. I disagree with the elders statement but agree that adding a synthetic soccer field was not the right way to spend monies.
2) The Elected Official (Costas) along with the NYC Parks Department lead the public to believe there would be a few discussions on how to spend the monies and that OUR SAY would be the tell all on how the monies would be spent; it’s NOT happening that way. At the first meeting, there were definitely special interest groups there (2-3 soccer teams with kids)… we broke into groups to discuss our ideas and each group presented ideas. We were then told we would be having another meeting (the one last night) to further discuss “how to use the monies” but what happened was an intro by the elected official and then a “proposed plan” was on the table (soccer field and storm water). These “proposals” have now been pushed on us and I didn’t agree with how they came to the conclusion on how to spend the monies (albeit one of my proposals is one on the table and to be transparent it’s the raingarden / storm water maintenance).
Just adding my 2 cents… The Elected Officials / NYC Parks should be more clear on Constituent input and not sway us into believing WE The People are deciding on the monies.
I was always under the impression this was the norm. They’ll “listen” to their constituents and that’s about it.
Perhaps I’m not following, but if one of your proposals is on the table, doesn’t that imply that they are listening? Quite frankly, I’m happening that they’re dealing with the raingarden. Not crazy about the soccer field (I don’t play), but I’m sure it’ll be used. That’s democracy.
Along with Soccer, Football can also be played on artificial turf. Ultimate frisbee can also be played on turf. And my guess is that they will all be played there once phase 1 is complete because people already play on the frozen patch of dirt that’s there now.