By Jeremy Walsh
The blueprint for Hunters Point South’s waterfront park was unveiled to the public last Thursday to mostly positive reviews, although plans for an artificial turf common area were met with skepticism.
The 10-acre park is also slated to include dog runs for both large and small canines, a children’s playground, hard-surface ball courts, a canopied pavilion area with staff offices and a concession kitchen, sloped picnic areas, running paths, a raised beach area and a small boat launch at the extreme south end of the park.
The plan now comes up for a vote at next month’s Community Board 2 meeting.
CB 2 Chairman Joseph Conley praised the city Parks Department for listening to the board’s concerns over several meetings and emphasized the importance of features like an interpretive rail garden meant to trace the path of the railroad tracks that once led to docks on the East River.
“With so much happening in the area, our history is being erased,” he said.
Residents who came to the public hearing in the basement of St. Mary’s Church last Thursday were in favor of most of these aspects.
But Long Island City resident Peter Johnson asked if the Parks Department had considered the environmental impact of droppings from the seagulls he believed the turf would attract.
“It’s going to be an area of warmth,” he said, warning that artificial turf cannot absorb and break down the birds’ fecal matter like natural grass. “They’re going to be perching there.”
Charles McKinney, design chief for the Parks Department, said they would have to wash the turf regularly. The agency is switching to turf for active recreation fields because grass is too expensive to maintain in heavily trafficked areas.
Tom Paino, an architect and advocate for controlled development, complimented the Parks Department on the design but also urged the agency to use grass for the common area.
“The new products still produce VOC’s,” he said, referring to the gasses released by the turf materials.
Paino also warned about the heat from the turf being in direct sunlight. “This green, this common space will be unusable during the summer months,” he said.
Other Long Island City residents urged the city to include a boat storage area near the launch ramp.
“I’ve been lobbying for a ramp there for years,” said Erik Baard, founder of the Long Island City Community Boathouse, which currently operates out of a temporary space. “A boathouse is critical there.”
One idea bandied around was the conversion of the common area to an ice skating rink. Conley said the Parks Department intends to design the area to support a rink, but private funding would have to be found for it.
The park would be constructed in two phases, with the active recreation-themed section adjacent to Gantry Plaza State Park slated for completion in the first phase. The 37.5-acre complex of high-rise buildings is designed to include 5,000 apartment units, 60 percent of which will be affordable housing for middle-income households.
Work on the infrastructure began this fall. Construction is expected to continue through 2017.
Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.