Work has begun on Howard Beach’s Frank M. Charles Memorial Park – and this time, the community hopes that the improvements will be maintained.
Dorothy McCloskey, director of the Friends of Charles Park Committee, walked The Courier through the park on Friday, November 5. She pointed out work that has been completed – such as the playground – and noted a dozen or so tennis players are eagerly awaiting finished courts.
“More than 1,500 kids have hit the courts and have played in deplorable conditions,” she said, pointing out that two local youths went to the Mayor’s Cup this year, with one coming in second in the city.
But McCloskey is also angry that, since the 450-strong community meeting in March – with the Deputy Secretary of Interior, the National Parks Service, Community Board 10 members, the Committee, and local politicians, including Congressmember Gregory Meeks, who secured $200,000 for the park – the National Parks Service has not been in touch.
“They should have contacted the Friends of Charles Park Committee to discuss how the renovations should go,” she said, noting that a lot of work in the park – from tree plantings to clean up – is done by the Committee and the community.
“We’ve had community input and the community did know we were going to start the project,” said John Warren, public affairs for Gateway National Recreation Area, which runs the park. “And now we’re having open houses to review our General Management Plan – the first time it’s being reviewed since 1979. People can come, comment face-to-face or put them on paper.”
Lynne Kenny, who plays tennis at the park every day, said one example of what the community is asking for is that the courts be painted blue so seagulls don’t drop shells from overhead, thereby damaging the turf.
“This park is used by all ages,” she said. “For a lot of seniors, it’s their way to be among their peers and get exercise.”
Dave Taft, coordinator for the Jamaica Bay Unit, said that $70,000 has gone toward the tennis courts, with a new acrylic base and fresh paint on the nets, because “they determined [the courts] were in reasonable shape.” They should be ready before the winter, he said.
Another bone of contention is the baseball field.
Tony Modafferi, who lives across the street from the park, said, as he pointed to a puddle, “They promised the children they’d be playing on good fields this spring. All they did was dump sand – full of rocks – not clay.”
Warren told The Courier that the baseball fields will be worked on in the spring.
McCloskey noted that the fields had been redone once before, but had not been maintained. “It’s a vicious cycle,” she said.
“I believe the park will be a lot more diligent in keeping things up to date so we won’t have to do the work again,” said Warren. “The Parks Service is concerned with working with the many voices in the community.”
For a list of dates and locations of the open houses, visit www.nps.gov/gate.