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Communities Seek Creative Solutions To Limited Park Space

Lou Lodati Park

Lou Lodati Park

Sept 8, 2015 By Jackie Strawbridge

Though the Parks Department oversees about 29,000 acres of public land not all of this space is easily accessible to all.

A recent WNYC report brought park space inequity to light, by collecting data on per capita park space, and distance to parks, in different neighborhoods.

Its data shows what many western Queens residents have long grappled with: Sunnyside, Woodside and Jackson Heights share a much smaller portion of public green space than their neighbors on the waterfront or in other areas of the City.

For the Parks Department, growing public access to parks is a “key initiative,” but “difficult” to achieve, a spokesperson said.

The agency specifically wants to increase the number of New Yorkers who are in walking distance from a park by about six percent in fifteen years; limited resources make this an ambitious goal.

Councilman Daniel Dromm said that his constituents in Jackson Heights raise concerns to him about limited park space “all the time.” However, he said it is “very, very difficult” to create new parks.

In addition to the expense, Dromm noted that in his district, there is minimal available land, as well as competing interests – such as the need for new schools – on that land.

As a result, community members and City officials say they must seek out creative options to opening up public recreational space.

The Queens Bike Initiative represents one such effort. Rather than focusing on creating new parks, QBI wants a network of bike lanes to connect existing parks throughout western Queens.

“I think it is an important and essential part of any community to have access to parks, and where there aren’t parks, create ways to get to parks,” James McIntyre of QBI said. “Giving people access to parks through bike lanes is a creative way to work with the city to help certain neighborhoods.”

A QBI Change.org petition for a western Queens bike network has garnered more than 650 signatures.

Dromm said public plazas offer another opportunity within his district. Plazas are created by the Department of Transportation with nonprofit partners, to transform underused streets into community gathering spots. Jackson Heights has Diversity Plaza (37th Road between 73rd and 74th Streets) and the 78th Street Plaza (78th Street between 34th Avenue and Northern Boulevard); Sunnyside has Lowery and Bliss Plazas under the 7 train.

“Where we lack specifically green space, we are looking for ideas to expand open space,” Dromm said.

Len Maniace, president of the Jackson Heights Beautification Group, said he would like to see the City find opportunities for indoor recreational space that could be used year-round.

“We’ve been beating the drum on this [park access] issue for close to 10 years,” Maniace said. “We… need to be creative and resourceful in trying to come up with new ways to provide green space and recreation space.”

Others focus on improving public green space that already exists.

“With regard to Sunnyside, it is more built up, and there are fewer opportunities to build a huge green park,” Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said. “We’re always going to try, but the parks that we do have in Sunnyside and Woodside are great; we’ve made a lot of them much better with significant investments, and we’re going to keep trying.”

Van Bramer specifically cited the restoration of Lou Lodati Playground, which added greenery, a dog run and resurfaced sports courts to energize the space.

This is the same thinking behind the Parks Department’s Community Parks Initiative, which targets underserved parks and playgrounds for improvements.

On Tuesday, the City announced the completion of CPI improvements at 60 parks and playgrounds, including eight in Queens.

Rick Duro of the Sunnyside United Dog Society, which championed the dog run project at Lou Lodati, spoke about the difficulty of sharing limited park space within a dense community. Though that park’s redesign helped make it more inclusive, he said, different groups may still find themselves at odds within the space, such as the Sunnyside Post reported in August.

For the near future, many have their eyes on an ambitious improvement project at Jackson Heights’ Travers Park.

The project will bring Travers, an adjacent City-owned field and the 78th Street Plaza into a cohesive design, which includes sports courts, play equipment and a “Great Lawn.”

“You can’t have a good neighborhood unless you have open space and park space,” Maniace said. “It’s definitely a step in the right direction.”

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28 Comments

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parking woes

Quit yer bellyachin’. Our kids have more than enough open space-lodati park, torsney playground, ps150, Greenpoint park, etc.

Reply
Greenless

Not turning Lou Lodati into a smidgen of green space for Sunnyside was our last hope of ever getting one. Comparing the plazas under the train stations as an alternative to green space shows just how far we are to achieving. There are tons of playgrounds in this area and I was sad to see them not utilizing the space for a much needed park.

Reply
Paula

From 3 1/2 years ago on the Sunnyside Post:

John K. Wilson
February 17, 2012 | 7:09 pm
We have a dearth of park space (the kind with grass and trees) and parking in Sunnyside and Woodside.
Why not build subterranean parking garages where the new schools are to be built—3, 4, or 5 levels down—and put green park space on top? A level or two could be sold in advance (as individual parking spaces), to help finance the construction; and the rest could be rented by the hour, day, week, or month—to provide ongoing cash flow. Then, rent, or buy, the much needed (and already built) school space from the several Catholic schools that have closed recently. School over-crowding would be relieved immediately—not at some point in the future. My fellow commenters, above, believe this is a good idea; and, I have suggested this in the past.
I believe this would meet the most needs, make the most number of people happy, and cost the least. It would still provide temporary construction jobs, permanent garage and park maintenance jobs, AND, it would generate taxes for the city—taxes on parking, as well as payroll taxes.

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Love my bike

If it were not for the cemetery we would have nothing green! I go there sometimes to relax on the grass and it great because not many people want to cuddle with a dead person so there is never a crowd there.

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Mac

How about bulldozing a couple of blocks of the Mets apartnent buildings on Broadway and on 48th avenue? They’re old and delapitaed anyway. Put up some new market housing in its place. A small dose of urban planning and renewal.

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sunnyside lifer

Hey I OWN her for 30+ years! I lost my home as kid to the Long Island Expressway on Laurel HIll blvd. I know Eminent Domain better than you. That area has been nothing but mis-used for years. First the church there was a derelict building for a LONG time, the church moved in and that was great, life appeared, the church bailed and it is once again derelict. Perhaps YOU you appreciate a 10 story ugly monster blocking your view and cutting off the circulation to your apt or home, I DON”T> WE DON’T NEED IT> We do need a little more green space instead of the eyesore that surrounds the LIRR tracks and overpass.

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Joe at the Berkley

@lifer people like “anonomous” carry a naive aristocratic view of economics and society. Land owners have a right to do whatever they wish with their property even if it brings down their neighbors property value and brings down the quality of life for everyone else in the community. Oh and the have nots just have to suck it up. Maybe “anonomous” should take a walk over to 85th street and 37 th ave and take a look at the block long spectacular garden that was paved over to create a parking lot. This started the degeneration of this section of the neighborhood however it also gave rise to the historical preservation movement.

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anonomus

What all here seem to not realize is that some of these places you mentioned as potential parks are privately owned.

You have NO right to tell a private landowner NOT to do what they are legally entitled to do with land they own.

Maybe your tune would change if we use EMINANT DOMAIN to take your home and knock it down to build a park so people don’t have to walk a few extra blocks to reach a park

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Joe at the Berkley

@anonomous Wow eminant domain.. Hahaha nobody mentioned eminant domain..what you don’t seem to realize is just pointing out an under utilized piece of property is not automatically a cry to invoke eminant domain. Let me guess you’re a Fox watching idiot who rallies behind fake videos. The article is about looking at creative ways to create more public access to green ways. Lifer could have meant approaching the cooperative that owns the under utilized property (this park was pretty much abandoned when I was a kid in the 60’s)about providing limited day time access with some type of lease agreement, membership fee or even a charge to enter the park. That’s the problem with you Fox folk no creativity just alarm and fear “someone’s coming for your guns” “the slippery slope ” the fake war on Christmas, gays want to recruit your kids..etc. etc. come up with an idea next time blowhard instead of the insulting bellicose chest pounding rant of a scared brainwashed Fox minion.

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Queen of Angels 1978

Yeah Johnny it takes a real psycho to stay focused and keep the conversation on the topic of the subject matter at hand. You think its normal to fly off the handle and start attacking another voice on the forum and accuse them of saying something that wasn’t even said? Suddenly the topic went from suggesting creative ideas about creating green spaces in an area short on land to “EMINANT DOMAIN” and tearing down peoples houses for parkland. Most would say Joe pointed out someones paranoid delusion well, except those who have been trained by a right wing propaganda network to believe it is normal to hijack discussion and pull it off topic. You’re the one who sounds like the mental case.

Reply
Anonymous visitor

What about the “Colonial Court Association” space on 48th between 43rd and Skillman? It pretty much already IS a park, but is just fenced off and in 10 years, I have never seen a human being in there

Reply
Joe at the Berkley

This has been discussed since I was a kid in the sixties. One point the author of this article does not get across is there is plenty of green space in Sunnyside and Jackson Heights within the numerous block long private gardens in those neighborhoods. So in order to get more accurate assessment of the true number of people who lack access to green ways you need to strip out the people who live in Sunnyside Gardens, Dunolly Gardens, Elm Court, The Chateau, the Berkley, Linden Court, The Towers and the rest of the large garden developments. The true number of the residents under served is much less then the article lets on. Mr. Van Braner absolutely correct in his determination about about few opportunities left to build a huge green park. There is no land left. It’s time to get creative.

Reply
Dino velvet

How lucky for us residents of Sunnyside/Woodside, instead of sitting in a park with grass & trees, we get to sit under the 7 train on Bliss st!
You’ve got to be joking if you think this is the same!

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Joe at the Berkley

@dino the plaza at 46th street “Bliss” is actually pretty cool. It’s breezy and shaded. It’s a great example of turning wasted space into something people can use. It’s actually nice when the live entertainment plays. I can say it can use a little more strategically placed plants but it is a step in the right direction.

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anonymous

there’s three immediate parks in woodside/sunnyside and there’s also flushing meadows, how is that not enough?

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Joe at the Berkley

@anonymous to quote the article “The agency specifically wants to increase the number of New Yorkers who are in walking distance from a park by about six percent in fifteen years; limited resources make this an ambitious goal.” Why would even mention a park that is out of walking distance when the very objective of the discussion is to help increase the number of New Yorkers who are within walking distance to a park? Yeah Central, Prospect and Harriman are also parks..Reading comprehension issues?

Reply
Just thinking

Also, the city is renting land to some outfit that parks cars on a lot between 37th Avenue and National Wholesale Liquidators on 48th Street. Take it back, turn it into a park. It is open and unbuilt.

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Kramden's Delicious Marshall

As long as the developers are allowed to run amok, we’ll just get more glass boxes, not green spaces.

Reply
Just thinking

Why not buy the Phipps parking lot and turn it into a park. Then Phipps can buy the parking garage on 48th St. restore it to its original purpose and make a ton of money without building a ten-story monster on much needed open land.

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Sunnyside lifer

I was thinking the same thingwhy not the Phipps parking lot and that church that was abandoned . That whole area would be a tremendous boon to this area for a green lawn park. There is space that goes out as far as Northern Blvd. What’s wrong with using some of that?

Reply
I'd_Just_Like_to_Say

Why don’t they extend Lou Lodati park by knocking down that old warehouse behind center field and creating extra green space that extends to 43rd at.

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