A park group that was formed in 2007 to advocate for the conservation and sustainability of Astoria Park has been honored for its work.
Astoria Park Alliance (APA) received the Golden Trowel Award from the City Parks Foundation for its “volunteers’ commitment to transforming their parks and green spaces into dynamic community assets.” A ceremony was held on March 8 in Manhattan where 250 parks volunteers and officials like Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski attended.
The group, which is close to achieving 501(3)(C) status, held 17 “It’s My Park” cleanups in 2016; helped facilitate the renovation of the bocce ball courts; organized Shore Fest, which attracted hundreds of visitors; conceived of a creative anti-littering campaign and played a large role in planning renovations as part of the city’s Anchor Park Program.
“We are thrilled about the award, as we know that City Parks Foundation and Partnerships for Parks consider a variety of important criteria for volunteer parks groups, like group development, programming and beautification projects, improved public awareness, and partnership with local partners and decision makers,” said Anthony Liberatoscioli, member of APA.
The 13-year Astoria resident said he’s always loved going to the park with his family but about two and a half years ago he was walking along the shore with his then 4-year-old daughter and noticed all of the litter.
“The litter was out of control,” he said. “I realized ‘How could I bring my daughter here to enjoy the view and have to explain all that trash to her without doing anything about it?’ So I looked up APA and went to the next monthly meeting to tell them I was particularly concerned about the shore. The next thing I knew, we were scheduling monthly cleanups along the East River. This is a special group of people and I am proud to be a part of it.”
He added that getting the award from Councilman Costa Constantinides made the night extra special and as the only Queens councilmember at the event, the group was happy to see him show support for their mission to improve Astoria Park.
Liberatoscioli said the group has big plans for 2017, which is the 10th anniversary of the organization. On March 25, an all-day volunteer event will take place to put the finishing touches on the bocce ball courts. Last year, volunteers excavated the compacted mud in the court, constructed and installed a drainage trench, replaced rotting boards inside the court and painted the cement walls.
Now, the group needs help installing a new clay playing surface. They hope to have the courts ready by April 22, which coincides with Earth Day and one of the group’s biggest events.
For Earth Day Shore Fest, APA will close down all of Shore Boulevard and will offer a number of volunteer opportunities in the morning, including “a major planting effort” in all of the park’s gardens and the butterfly garden started by the group under the Hell Gate Bridge.
“We are working with brand new volunteers who bring an expertise in gardening and are helping us to bring plants, flowers, and color into the park in a way we haven’t seen in years,” Liberatoscioli said.
A shoreline cleanup and bocce court opening is also scheduled along with , live music, yoga and zumba, environmental information tables, face painting and craft activities for kids, a recycling relay race, and a photo scavenger hunt of the park.
“It’s a big undertaking for us, and we can’t wait to celebrate and serve with the community,” he said.
Astoria Park Alliance meets at 7 p.m. on the first Tuesday of every month at Bohemian Hall, which is located at 29-19 24th Ave.