By Phil Corso
After waiting eight years to break ground, northeast Queens leaders took to Little Bay Park Tuesday with plans to celebrate a more comfortable future there, but what they found instead was another hurdle in an ongoing bureaucratic battle.
A long-awaited comfort station should be finished at Little Bay Park by fall 2014, according to a spokesman for the city Parks Department, and its construction has been coupled with an expanded 100-car parking lot at the site.
But in the interim, both the parking lot and park itself were mostly gated off, making it more difficult for residents to reach the area by car or other means as they awaited the $5 million project’s completion. Access to the park was still available, but in a much more limited way.
Bay Terrace Community Alliance President Warren Schreiber has been at the forefront of the fight to get shovels in the ground. Although he was glad to finally see a Little Bay comfort station come to fruition, he worried about what restricted parking would mean come summertime.
“I own a few driveways over there,” Schreiber said while motioning toward nearby Bay Terrace. “I’ll be able to sell spots and make money during the summer.”
Because of the new gates lining the perimeter of Little Bay Park, the nearest option for anyone trying to park their car is just under the Throgs Neck Bridge.
Even though he was speaking with sarcasm, Schreiber’s sentiments echoed those of other northeast Queens residents who passed by the park after the construction gates went up.
“I’m a biker. I bike maybe 100 miles a week in the summertime,” said Flushing activist Paul Graziano, who joined in the celebration of the incoming comfort station Tuesday. “There’s no way I can get through here now because my route is totally screwed up. They should really have some sort of access.”
The Parks Department did not return calls on exactly how long the construction gates will be limiting traffic through Little Bay Park.
Nonetheless, community leaders were still celebrating Tuesday when they joined state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) at the site where crews were working to make way for the new comfort station.
“This was a real team effort,” Schreiber said. “The new comfort station is something that will go on to benefit everyone in this community.”
The senator wielded a shovel at the press conference to symbolize an unofficial groundbreaking he speculated the Parks Department was “too embarrassed” to mark on its own after years of delays.
“This is just the beginning,” Avella said. “Little Bay Park is eventually going to be one of the best parks in the borough.”
When he was a member of the City Council eight years ago, Avella dedicated $1 million to the comfort station cause, and after nearly a decade the senator said he was glad to see the city finally moving forward on the project residents who frequent the area deserved.
Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4573.