City announces restoration for MacNeil Park esplanade

City announces restoration for MacNeil Park esplanade
Photo by Alex Robinson
By Alex Robinson

The city Parks Department has declared MacNeil Park, which was ravaged by Superstorm Sandy, due for a $2.4 million face-lift.

Parks officials unveiled a plan to the Community Board 7 Parks Committee last week to restore the College Point park’s waterfront paths, which have been closed since the October 2012 storm.

The plan will reconstruct portions of the esplanade and build a fishing area. The erosion of the park’s seawall and paths occurred over years, but was exacerbated by the hurricane.

The Parks Department will also build granite steps down to the water and restore the park’s tree canopy.

At a previous committee meeting, Parks officials told board members they were considering abandoning a portion of the esplanade. The section would have been filled in and closed off to public access permanently.

But the Parks Department decided against closing off any part of the path before it finalized its proposal.

Some board members and residents were pleasantly surprised by the announcement because they had been worried the park’s path would be structurally altered and closed off, which had been mentioned as a possibility.

“We did not want the historic circulation to be disrupted and changed in any way. We just wanted them to restore the walking areas, a new fishing space, more greenspace and trees,” said James Cervino, a CB 7 member and president of the Coastal Preservation Network, a College Point nonprofit that advocates for the restoration of the waterfront.

The restoration will not be able to reconstruct the entire closed path due to budgetary constraints, but Parks officials promised that no section of the walkway would be closed permanently.

Cervino, a lifelong resident of College Point and scientist, said he was pleased with the final plan, but he had been concerned as the Parks Department did not provide any literature to board members on the final plan before they were scheduled to meet.

“We commend the environmental plans. The most pleasing environmental plans came out of that meeting and we are very happy with it,” Cervino said. “Even though a portion will not be fixed, it will be temporarily closed off. They will not be structurally changing the original historic footprint.”

The committee unanimously approved the plan, but under the condition that no section of the park’s path be closed off or filled in permanently.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation still needs to approve the plan, but Parks officials said they anticipate construction on the park, which sits northwest of Poppenhusen Avenue, will start by summer 2015 and last a year.

Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at arobinson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.