New park at foot of the Kosciuszko Bridge in Maspeth is slated to open in 2020

The first half of the new Kosciuszko Bridge, shown in this March 2017 photo, opened on April 27.
Photo courtesy of the NYS Department of Transportation

Two parcels owned by the state Department of Transportation will be turned into a destination park with views of the new Kosciuszko Bridge.

Representatives from the DOT and State Parks Department outlined a plan for the park at the Community Board 2 (CB 2) meeting in Sunnyside on May 4. Though the departments are at the very early stages of planning, they have been speaking to the community about what amenities they would like to see.

CB 2 voted to approve the location of the park, which includes two state-owned parcels at 54th Road and Laurel Hill Boulevard in Maspeth. The larger parcel spans 24,000 square feet and the smaller parcel across the street is 8,000 square feet. Jim Lau, a supervisor for the project, said the smaller space will include a comfort station that will be staffed by a Parks Department employee and can feature parking if residents would like.

The park will open in 2020 to coincide with the opening of the Brooklyn span, which will have a 20-foot-wide pedestrian and bicycle path that connects to the Queens side. Board members also looked at a site in Blissville bordered by Van Dam Street, Borden Avenue and Bradley Avenue.

But according to CB 2 Chairperson Denise Keehan-Smith, the triangle parcel underneath the Long Island Expressway sees a lot of heavy traffic.

“When you take the traffic into consideration and the volume of trucks and proximity to the entrance to Long Island Expressway, DOT as well as Parks does not feel comfortable using that space as a park,” she said.

The DOT said they are committed to working with the community to identify potential uses for the park and ideas like a skate park and adult exercise equipment for workers around the mostly industrial area have been floated around.

Sgt. William Dougherty Playground in Brooklyn is also being remodeled as part of the new Kosciuszko Bridge plan and that park is close in size to the proposed park in Queens. It includes a skate park, handball courts, basketball courts, chess tables and greenery. Queens residents will be able to visit the neighboring park by using the new pedestrian path on the Brooklyn span.

Mitch Waxman, a member of the Newtown Creek Alliance, asked the board to consider naming the new park after a founding member of the organization Bernard Ente, who passed away in 2011. Ente was a photographer, historian and Maspeth resident.

“He documented the life and movement of the Creek, administered the NCA website, and was a gracious liaison to the Borough of Queens, the bridges of Newtown Creek, and the community of committed advocates for New York’s maritime industry, said Katie Shmid, member of the NCA when he passed away. “His knowledge of Newtown Creek history led us all to discover what a treasure the Creek is, and his insightful grasp on its present challenges created the core of the Alliance’s agenda.”

The DOT will distribute an online survey to community members and will also hold scoping sessions to garner feedback. A timeline for the meetings has not been proposed but CB 2 will announce dates when they are solidified.

Starting this summer, DOT will begin streetscape improvements along Laurel Hill Boulevard along the Q67 route to add more lighting in the area. They will also look at adding art in the park and incorporating the Percent for Art program to possibly feature murals along the walls of the park.