Calling Astoria Park “the jewel in our neighborhood’s crown,” Councilman Costa Constantinides made a pitch in his State of the District address on Monday to improve the park, including adding a FIFA regulation-size soccer field.
The nearly 60-acre park became official parkland in 1913 and is home to the city’s largest and oldest swimming pool, bocce courts, tennis courts, two playgrounds, a track and skate park.
Constantinides proposed that the center of the Astoria Park jogging track would be the perfect place for the field.
“If you walk around the center of the Astoria Park jogging track, you will see the scars of a litany of conflicting uses and activities,” he said.
He noted that the grass in some areas is worn down from “unregulated games of soccer,” while other parts of the space look like they have not been touched in years. The councilman said he has heard constituents requesting a place to play soccer and that building a Parks Department-sanctioned field will allow “time slots to players and teams so that all uses of the track complex can be regulated and we won’t have errant soccer balls flying in joggers’ paths.”
He also argued that this soccer field, which would be positioned near the waterfront by the Robert F. Kennedy (Triborough) Bridge, could be a site for large-scale tournaments and high-profile games.
“I believe this space presents a wonderful opportunity to bring our neighborhood together to play the world’s game in the ‘World’s Borough,'” the councilman said.
The field would require a capital investment to resurface the area and lay down turf. Meghan Lalor, spokeswoman for the Parks Department, said the agency is willing to flesh out this proposal with Constantinides.
“We look forward to discussing the proposal more with the council member,” Lalor said. “A project like this would be dependent on community support and funding.”
Constantinides also announced that Charybdis Playground will be receiving $3 million for new play equipment and a spray shower. Earlier this month, parents created a petition to call on the Parks Department to reopen the bathrooms at the playground, which have been closed since last year due to plumbing issues.
The park will also get $1.5 million worth of landscape improvements “as erosion control is desperately needed in several areas,” he said.
A total of $2.4 million will go into renovating the bathrooms and locker room facilities at the Astoria Park Pool, which Constantinides called “long and overdue.”
The total cost of the plan will be $15 million, some of which the councilman has already secured.
Constantinides also argued that the streets around Astoria Park must be made safer. He outlined a plan that the Parks Department proposed which includes adding new dual direction bike lanes on 20th Avenue and making Shore Boulevard a one-way street. ADA-accessible ramps will also be added to each street crossing to make it easier for strollers and wheelchairs to access the park.
“Astoria Park is an integral part of our neighborhood’s heritage, and we have a duty to ensure that its beauty and splendor is preserved for the next generation,” Constantinides said. “We also have a duty to fully assess the needs of both the park and the people for whom the park exists.”