June 4, 2015 By Jackie Strawbridge
The Parks Department has set up a public meeting to discuss the design plans for Astoria Heights Playground following an outcry from residents about its plan to remove the mini-pool.
The meeting will be largely informational, according to Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski. The department will explain its thinking behind the plans for the $3.3 million Playground, including the upgraded play equipment, a sports field and, controversially, the replacement of the pool with a spray shower.
The meeting is scheduled for June 23 at the Boulevard Gardens Assembly Hall, located at 51-42 30th Ave., at 7 p.m.
“For the most part, it’s an opportunity for the Department and our designers to come in and give a chance for people who don’t fully understand what the design entails to hear from us,” Lewandowski said.
She added that the agency would have the opportunity to “put any misrepresentations to rest.”
For Lewandowski, these “misrepresentations” regard the replacement of a mini-pool currently sitting within the playground with a spray shower system.
While most were pleased to learn that the aging playground was to receive an upgrade, several parents disapproved of the pool’s removal.
Critics said that the loss of the pool would make the playground less appealing to upper-elementary and middle-school age kids, and that for neighboring families without cars, it is a more viable summertime option than the Astoria Park pool.
The Parks Department brought the revamp designs to Community Board 1’s Parks Committee on April 30, and has received approval from the City Public Design Commission.
Designs are currently in the “schematic phase,” which precedes the drawing up of detailed contract documents, Lewandowski said.
When asked whether any room for adjustment remains in the design plans, Lewandowski responded, “if [at the upcoming meeting] there’s strongly some elements where there could be some opportunity for tweaking, then I think we should take that into consideration.”
This month’s meeting will offer a dialogue that many parents have been calling for since plans of the redesign was made public.
“I’m more concerned at this point about the process,” Laura Boutwell said at a town hall meeting hosted by the United Communities Civic Association in mid-May. “There has been very little community outreach from the Parks Department.”
“I really wish someone from [Parks] would actually present the design to us, tell us more about why they are planning to remove the pool,” Celia O’Donnell said in an email to the Astoria Post days later.
According to the agency, Parks’ redesign process included a community brainstorming session at IS 10, adjacent to the playground, collaboration with neighbors’ organization the Friends of Astoria Heights Park, and an online survey.
Of the design and outreach process, Lewandowski said, “I think it did work. In the larger sense, the playground itself will be a much more viable play space.”
“We’re giving you an opportunity at least now to come and express your concerns; it gives us an opportunity to really describe what the project is and hopefully have some meaningful dialogue that night,” she added.