By Connor Adams Sheets
Community leaders and elected officials are working through a number of avenues to improve Little Bay Park in Bayside, saying the park has been neglected for too long.
Located in the shadow of the Throgs Neck Bridge, the 55-acre beachside greenspace offers sports fields, a bike path and a roller hockey rink, but it has seen little in the way of improvements since 1999, when $1.2 million in city money funded the creation of the path and rink.
On Monday afternoon, City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) and Malba Gardens Civic Association President Al Centola met with representatives of the city Parks Department at the park — bounded by the beach, Cross Island Parkway, Utopia Parkway and Totten Avenue — to discuss ways to fix the soccer fields, which suffer from poor drainage and other woes because of their location near the salty waters of Little Bay.
Centola hopes at least one of the park’s two soccer fields can be fixed in time for next year’s season, but the cost to do the needed work is proving prohibitive. Halloran said it costs $2.3 million per field to outfit them with artificial turf, or $1.5 million for sod. The price tags are so high because of the need to do extensive drainage upgrades before undertaking such work.
“We’re trying to get that redone because the field is a mess there. There’s no real field, there’s dust and dirt that turns into mud when it rains,” Centola said. “We’re pushing for turf but it’s more expensive, so we’ll settle for sod if it’s done right.”
Halloran’s office allocated $300,000 in city funds last year that can be used to pay for improvements at the park, and he told Centola Monday he may be able to get at least partial matching funds this year if the civic leader can convince Borough President Helen Marshall to dedicate money for the project. Centola said he and his fellow community members will lobby her to put $750,000 toward the field work, and that he and Halloran are hoping to enlist landscape contractors to help foot the bill.
But just securing funds does not mean that work will actually break ground anytime soon at the park, as state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and Bay Terrace Community Alliance President Warren Schreiber have discovered.
In 2004, U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside) secured more than $4 million in federal funding to complete road work in Bayside and expand the park’s parking lot. Within a year of that allocation, then-Councilman Avella obtained $1.3 million in city money to build a comfort station at Little Bay.
Neither project has broken ground, leaving both leaders incensed at the Parks Department.
“This is a disgrace. This has been an ongoing issue, I can’t even remember how long ago it was that I got the money for the comfort station,” Avella said. “It’s ridiculous. This is probably one of the worst examples, but it’s systemic with the Parks Department lately, that you allocate money and it takes years for a shovel to get into the ground.”
But Halloran said there is hope in sight as both projects have gone to bid and work may begin as soon as fall, according to the Parks Department.
“All the things that have to be done for those projects to go forward has been done. We’re just waiting on bids from contractors,” Halloran said.
Schreiber said he is not holding his breath for the work to begin in the near future.
“There hasn’t been a lot of attention to Little Bay Park,” Schreiber said.
Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.