By Mark Hallum
Residents are pushing to make a park out of an empty Douglas Manor lot. On Friday, many of them joined civic leaders and state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) in an effort to transform the rough acre into greenspace the whole community can enjoy.
Community leaders argued the neighborhood is lacking in common space to be used for events and gatherings, with the waterfront not being the most accessible place for children and elderly individuals. They called on Mayor Bill de Blasio to transfer the land from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development to the city Department of Parks and Recreation.
“For 10 to 15 years, the community and I have been asking the city to transform this vacant lot of city owned land into a greenspace that the entire community can benefit from,” said Senator Avella. “This level of inaction from the city isn’t new, but I’m stunned that they would behave this way with a piece of land that they already own. The original plan for this land failed decades ago, but there is no reason why it has been left untouched since then. The city needs to do right by this community and allow DPR to turn this space into an amenity that will be enjoyed by all. Allowing this land to remain vacant and unused would be a real shame.”
The patch of grass, located at 39th Avenue and 234th Street, has sat for decades after the city abandoned an earlier project, according to Avella.
“Around here, there are no real public spaces. When the community wants to get together and have a celebration, there is not a real place for us to gather. Our community is aching for a place where we can go, relax, and enjoy leisurely activities with our kids and the community,” said Colette Wong, President of Doug-Bay Manor Association. “We need a place that is large enough to accommodate our community gatherings.”
Tom Pinto, treasurer and former president of Doug-Bay Manor Civic Association, pointed out that available space on the half penninsula forming Douglaston is well developed with suburban houses and yards, and the waterfront does not cut it for the residents who want common space for the community.
“This area has no parkland,” Pinto said. “We have the waterfront ,but it isn’t very usable. We need a space that both seniors and children can use. We need greenspace, not a parking lot, that can benefit the entire community.”
The nearest parkland available to the residents would be Alley Pond Park and other wetland preserves which are either connected to Alley Pond as part of the patchwork of greenspace or nearby.
“There’s so little greenspace left in the city,” said Jamie Sutherland, secretary of the Douglas Manor Environmental Association. “Any greenspace that we can attain for our residence is a value for everyone. This doesn’t only benefit the residents of this area, a greenspace greatly benefits the environment as well.”
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall