BY DOROTHY LEWANDOWSKI
Under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Borough President Helen Marshall and all of our Queens elected officials, we are continuing to benefit from the largest period of park renovation and expansion since the 1930s. Over the past decade, almost half a billion dollars has been allocated for more than 600 upcoming and completed projects in Queens parks.
We work hard to listen to and include all the communities of Queens in what we do at NYC Parks, and we’d like to share with you a look back and a look ahead as the new year begins.
This past summer’s opening of Rockaway Beach brought sand, surf, and sun, but also tacos, spring rolls, smoothies, arepas and more, thanks to an international menu from a slate of new vendors.
Those looking for something a little more active than a day at the beach were able to play cricket on the new grass cricket fields at Jamaica’s Baisley Pond Park, practice their backhand at the restored Forest Park and Astoria Park tennis courts or row around Meadow Lake, thanks to the new boat launch and restored boathouse at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.
And Queens kids were able to climb, run and slide into new playgrounds at Middle Village’s Juniper Valley Park and Springfield Garden’s Montbellier Park. These 21st-century playgrounds feature challenging equipment and themed designs guaranteed to entertain even the most seasoned playground-goer.
As part of the mayor’s PlaNYC program, we’re making New York a more sustainable and livable city. One of PlaNYC’s goals has been to take advantage of existing, underutilized space and improve it for additional use. Last June, we took a space that was once blighted by giant, unused gas tanks, visible from the highway, and opened Elmhurst Park – six acres of rolling hills, expansive lawns and innovative playground equipment.
Another of the initiatives under the PlaNYC program has been to improve schoolyards and open them after school hours and on weekends for public use. Last year, we opened the city’s 200th such site when we cut the ribbon on Jackson Heights’ P.S. 69. In total, 52 Queens schoolyards have already been opened, and an additional eight are currently being improved.
Queens was particularly hard hit by the 2010 tornado and last year’s many storms, so recent Queens plantings targeted Forest Hills, Rego Park, and other communities that lost trees during these storms. As you may know, the goal of MillionTreesNYC is to plant one million trees on NYC’s streets and in our parks by 2017. Last year we reached the halfway mark, planting our 500,000th tree, including more than 120,000 new trees in Queens.
I would like to thank all of our Queens partners and elected officials who have – through advocacy, special events, and funding – “adopted” Queens’ parks as their own, and made 2011’s improvements possible.
And we’re always on the lookout for new volunteers to help keep Queens’ parks clean, green and beautiful. If you want more information about volunteer opportunities visit nyc.gov/parks.
We’re working for a greener, cleaner 2012, and look forward to seeing you in the beautiful parks of Queens!
Dorothy Lewandowski is the Parks Department’s Queens Borough Commissioner.