By Tom Momberg
The city Department of Parks and Recreation kicked off its $1.9 million capital reconstruction project in Forest Park with a groundbreaking ceremony last week, continuing a $7 million series of incremental improvements to Queens’ third-largest park.
Assisting Parks administrators and community leaders in breaking ground were Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills), who allocated $1.35 million of city discretionary funding for the project in this year’s budget, and Borough President Melinda Katz, who put an additional $550,000 of city funds toward the project that will revamp amenities to make them safer and more environmentally friendly.
“Over the past few years, we have been able to begin slowly transforming Forest Park in a number of locations,” said Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski. “And in this eastern edge, because of funding from the borough president and all the local Council members, we have been doing amazing work in this area.”
In years past, the playground was redesigned and additional pathways were put in, but one problem remained: “We recognize that in this general area, we have also had a lot of trouble with drainage and erosion. These funds will allow us to correct that,” Lewandowski said.
The capital project will realign and reconstruct more than 2,100 linear feet of existing asphalt pathways with concrete curbs throughout the park, to direct stormwater to new bioswales, putting an end to the park’s notorious drainage issues in which stormwater pools at low points.
About 80 linear feet of new pathway will also be constructed to connect the sidewalk of Forest Park Drive on the northeast end of the park with the other paths, so visitors do not have to walk along the Overlook’s driveway for park access.
A Parks landscaper said the pathway redesign is a part of the department’s citywide effort to reduce the amount of water that runs through the city’s gray infrastructure, eliminating the first inch of rainfall that has to flow through catch basins, sewage outflows and ultimately, waterways and the ocean.
“The bioswales will also be good for our park rangers to be able to point to when instructing classes on ecosystems and the importance of parks,” Lewandowski said.
Included in a second phase of the project, the youth t-ball court will be flattened and reconstructed, an Americans with Disabilities-certified ramp will be installed at the Overlook and permeable pavers will be grouted around the park comfort station to better capture rainfall.
Koslowitz and Katz said Forest Park is like a great escape for Queens residents, to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, so they made it priority to allocate money for the park to better serve the community.
“Forest Park is an amazing jewel in central Queens: It’s a place where people from so many communities and neighborhoods come to play with their children, play baseball and all the things we care for so deeply,” Katz said.
Reach reporter Tom Momberg by e-mail at tmomb