Bayside elected officials and community leaders are campaigning for relief for visitors of Little Bay Park and hoping that millions of dollars in funding hasn’t been flushed by the Department of Parks and Recreation.
Senator Tony Avella united with Warren Schreiber, president of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance, and residents of the Bayside community on November 29 to urge the Parks Department to begin the revitalization project of Little Bay Park – which includes the construction of a comfort station.
Avella, who previously allocated funding for a dog run in the park, apportioned $1.3 million for the public restrooms seven years ago – the same time Congressmember Gary Ackerman secured a $4.12 million federal transportation allocation to reconstruct and expand the Little Bay parking lot and rebuild the Cross Island Parkway Bridge overpass at 212th Street.
Neither project has commenced, and three port-a-potties are currently stationed in the park.
“This seems to be systematic of the Parks Department – getting money and then not moving ahead with the project,” said Avella, who believes usage of the park has increased by 1,000 percent in the past decade. “It is unfair to the community to have to wait seven years for something they have been asking for, and it is unfair to tax payers because each year you delay a capital project, costs go up. I would hate to even ask the Parks Department what this project would cost today.”
The senator blames the delay on a lack of communication and transparency and says he plans to introduce state legislation requiring all city agencies to provide information on their web sites about all pending capital projects, including where funding is coming from, the anticipated start and completion dates and where the projects are in the construction process.
“These were important funds that I fought hard to secure for our community,” said Ackerman. “It’s well past time for these projects to move forward. Hopefully, all agencies involved can cut through the bureaucratic red tape so that shovels can finally get into the ground as soon as possible.”
During the press conference, community leaders emphasized that there is “great fear” that the money is being used for other projects.
“It’s obvious that the planned park and traffic enhancements have somehow been derailed. It’s time to get them back on track,” said Schreiber, who called the Parks Department one of the most difficult agencies to deal with. “At some point you have to wonder if the money is still there or if it was used for another purpose.”
According to a Parks Department spokesperson, a number of outstanding issues exist that are preventing the initiation of the project, including state approval to build close to a coastal zone, state approval to handle archaeological finds – if any are discovered on site – due to the recent discovery of archaeological material within half a mile of the park, and permission from several agencies to utilize a sewer line owned by the FDNY.
“The total budget for the comfort station and parking lot is approximately $4 million,” said the spokesperson. “This includes both federal and city funds. The funding is secure and has not been reallocated. Because the project contains federal grant funds, the state is obligated to review all plans before Parks can bid or begin to build. We’ve been working closely and actively with the State Department of Transportation (DOT) to address their comments and requests.”
After learning of the press conference on November 29, Avella says Parks Department officials and the Department of Transportation contacted him and arranged a meeting to discuss the project.
“At this point, I am optimistic that the Parks Department recognizes this is a serious issue for the community,” Avella said. “Hopefully they will realize that we need communication and transparency and we are here to work together to move this project along.”