By Bill Parry
One of the smallest parks in the borough is about to get an expensive makeover.
City Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) allocated almost $400,000 in capital discretionary funding to the historic One Room Schoolhouse Park in Jackson Heights.
Located at the corner of 90th Street and Astoria Boulevard, the park first opened in 1935 on the site of the city’s last one room schoolhouse, which was built in 1879. Over the decades, the park developed into a sitting area that was popular among visitors of the local public library that was located across the street at the time.
The park was later transformed into a public garden named for Phil “Earthman” Saccone, the founder of the Jackson Heights Neighborhood Association, following his death in 2007. Legendary former Parks Commissioner Henry Stern gave Saccone his “Earthman” moniker during his years of green space activism.
The upgrades at the park will include improvements to the sitting area and enhancements to the community garden space.
“Improving parks bring even greater improvements to the community that surrounds them,” Constantinides said. “Upgrades at One Room Schoolhouse Park would not only preserve the park’s rich history, but would also provide a restored green space for the entire Jackson Heights community. Providing high-quality recreational and leisure resources to all residents of our district will make our neighborhood thrive, benefit our air quality and protect our environment.”
Those are issues that mean a lot to Constantinides, who was appointed chairman of the Council Environmental Protection Committee, a move that was approved unanimously by the full City Council July 9.
For the neighborhood surrounding One Room Schoolhouse Park, the project is a much needed improvement.
“Community Board 3 has the least amount of park space citywide and our recreational and public areas are at a premium,” CB3 District Manager Giovanna Reid said. “The planned upgrades to this historic park will for certain enhance the user’s experience. We look forward to these wonderful improvements.”
Constantinides also allocated funding to additional green spaces throughout the 22nd Council District. As part of the participatory budgeting process, he allocated $500,000 to build a dog run at Triborough Lot C under the RFK Bridge in Astoria.
He also secured $1.21 million for improvements at the Hallets Cove Playground, with $1 million from Borough President Melinda Katz and $210,000 from his discretionary funding. Constantinides also allocated $350,000 to NYCHA Astoria Houses for upgrades to its basketball courts.
Meanwhile, the city Parks Department will conduct a community meeting to plan specific renovations at One Room Schoolhouse Park. It’s not clear when the renovation will begin.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr