By Jeremy Walsh
The elaborate, 11-acre plan for a park at the new Hunters Point South development project moved past Community Board 2 last week, but not before board members insisted on natural grass for a large common area and requested the inclusion of a community boathouse.
All but two board members voted to approve the plan under the conditions that natural grass be used and a boathouse be included, but the two-hour hearing was marked by skepticism from board members and some animated opposition from Geoffrey Croft, president of the New York City Park Advocates, who criticized the city Parks Department for continuing to use artificial turf, warning about the plastic smell and the “intense heat” the material gives off in direct sunlight.
“We would not be installing anything in parks or playgrounds that is not safe,” Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski said, noting grass turns into a “dust bowl” after months of constant use and reminding the board that a school is slated to be built across from the park.
But board members listened to complaints from neighbors like Tom Paino.
“Parks claims they will be out there washing it with disinfectant,” he said, referring to another resident’s worries that seagulls would roost on the green and defecate there. “Will they have the money to do this as often as required?”
Charles McKinney, the Parks Department’s chief designer, said community members around Cadman Plaza Park in Brooklyn fought against artificial turf and now they fight to use it.
“Think of me as the cheeky waiter who winks at you and says, ‘Don’t order the fish,’” McKinney said. “Don’t order the grass.”
CB 2 Vice Chairman Stephen Cooper summed up the majority of the board’s feelings, noting the common area would be too small for proper organized sports.
“You’ve decided to take this center, this jewel of the community, and you put plastic on it,” he said.
Board members also heard community activists like Erik Baard, founder of the Long Island City Community Boathouse, who said a boathouse for the launch planned at the end of Second Street was essential.
“A launch is really only good for people who have an alcove where they can store a boat,” he said.
Resident Rebecca Olinger said she sails in Whitehall gigs, which weigh 550 pounds and cannot be carried. She asked for a boat launch ramp.
The 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 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 entire 5,000-unit residential complex is expected to be done by 2017.
Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.