City announces free Wi-Fi initiative for Queens parks

Free Wi-Fi will soon complement the view from Astoria Park if a mayoral project goes according to plan.
By Joe Anuta

For anyone who is on a stroll and wants to identify a squirrel in Astoria Park, a tree in MacDonald Park or wondering what will become of the towers in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, you will have a new option: Google it.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced with officials from the city Parks Department last Thursday that three Queens parks will be getting free Wi-Fi by the end of the summer.

“Park visitors will now have more options to surf the net while enjoying the great outdoors of New York City’s open spaces,” Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe said in a statement.

The city partnered with AT&T, which will install the project at no cost to the city and will allow Queens residents to engage with the parks in a new way.

“New Yorkers can get out and be able to take their lives with them when they’re not at home and not in the office,” said AT&T spokeswoman Alexa Kaufman.

The service will be free to anyone, regardless of service provider, she said.

Even die-hard nature lovers like New York City Park Advocates’ Geoffrey Croft said he looked forward to the Wi-Fi.

“I’m definitely more of a purist, but I also understand that times are changing and that people are taking their work into parks more and more,” he said. “Any time there is a distraction from enjoying our parks, that’s always a concern, but I certainly realize that this is a major convenience.”

The Wi-Fi, which will be emitted by small, 18-inch antennae placed throughout the green spaces, will be installed in the three Queens locations over the summer. By the fall, 20 parks citywide will be equipped with the wireless Internet, Kaufman said.

“This is the time of year that people are out and about and we could take the most advantage of this,” she said.

And park-goers largely supported the measure in Queens.

“I think it’s great,” said Barry Heckard, who has lived near Astoria Park for eight years. “I don’t think there are any negatives.”

Heckard said the Wi-Fi would be useful if people wanted to listen to music or browse the Internet while enjoying the park.

But when asked if bringing work into the park would be an added benefit, Heckard had a different answer.

“Work? God no,” he said. “Not in the park, it defeats the purpose.”

Doros Evalgelides has lived in the neighborhood for 10 years and also thought free Internet was a good idea.

“People could come with their iPods and listen to music,” he said.

But the plan did not please everyone.

Lifelong Astoria resident Jane Rios said the city should be addressing more pressing issues than free Internet.

“I could care less about it,” she said. “It’s hard enough to live in New York. They’re closing schools and closing fire departments.”

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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