By Juan Soto
Jamaica may soon get a new much needed recreational public facility in a piece of land that was slated for an affordable housing project.
The asphalt lot, at the intersection of 164th Street and 107th Avenue, is empty and in bad shape. Grass is growing out of cracks in the pavement.
It is currently used by neighborhood kids to play basketball. It has two standing hoops, which are both bent, without nets.
The lot also has two clothing donation bins next to an adjacent house.
Led by a nearby church, community members and residents have expressed interest in transforming the parcel into a recreational space for the kids and young men of the area, which is close to the York College campus.
The city Department of Housing Preservation and Development owns the parcel plans and has planned for years to build the affordable housing unit.
According to an HPD spokesman, the city agency is “in the very early stages of moving forward” with that particular project.
But because of the economic downturn and the housing crisis, which severely affected southeast Queens neighborhoods, HPD was unable to get the financing needed to build the recreational center.
Yet the idea of the local church and the community to transform the unit into a public space is gaining momentum. It would provide a space for kid from the neighborhood to get together and play sports.
Kids there play basketball with the hopes and dreams of maybe becoming the next Carmelo Anthony or LeBron James. Street basketball is like a religion in urban New York City.
The city Parks Department is studying the possibility of buying the lot from HPD and adding it to its property list.
A Parks Department representative said the city agency is “examining the property to determine if the space would be suitable for a public park.”
Fixing the basketball court appears not to be an option.
Greg Mays, founder of the nonprofit A Better Jamaica, said the area around the empty lot is short on green spaces and a new park space will improve the neighborhood.
“The Parks Department is not flush with cash, and I guess adding a park will be a challenge,” added Mays.
But Mays said it would be ideal to turn “that lot into a basketball court or some kind of park for the kids in the neighborhood.”
The lot is approximately 3,500 square feet and is on the corner of two streets.
Reach reporter Juan Soto by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.