By Mark Hallum
Little Bay Park opened its renovated soccer fields Tuesday with City Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) in attendance, along with Parks Department officials and other figures from around the neighborhood.
The city broke ground on the project overlooking Little Neck Bay and the Throgs Neck Bridge in spring of 2016 to alleviate the problem of heavily compacted soil from years of sports. This left field conditions that were detrimental to the health of players who used them.
Up to $1.6 million was invested in the fields for the restoration, and area soccer teams were already putting them to use on the day of the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“Many of you were here last April when we broke ground on this construction project, and you could tell the fields were well-loved and well-used by the community,” Parks Commissioner Michael Silver said. “They were worn, they were compacted and they kind of could hurt your legs. We wanted to remedy that.”
A walking path, water fountain and trees were also added during the renovation to the 5½ acres of greenspace, along with improved drainage with bioswales. According to Vallone, if the fields at Little Bay were not available, soccer leagues such as the Catholic Youth Organization would be forced to practice and play on other fields as far away as the Rockaways.
“When we see projects come to fruition like this and see our children playing on them, it makes us really happy,” Vallone said, offering some credit to his predecessor, Dan Halloran, who is in prison on a corruption conviction, for first proposing the project. “This was the first Parks project we focused on when we took office and we are so happy to see the ribbon-cutting.”
Community Board 7 District Manager Marilyn McAndrews said the next items on the agenda for the fields are bleachers. She also pointed out that although her district is one of the largest in Queens, with a population which includes the densely populated part of downtown Flushing, it gets the same amount of funding as every other part of the borough.
Queens Borough Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski said the renovation of the fields is part of a larger renovation of Little Bay Park and Fort Totten, which sits adjacent to the greenspace. Two years ago, upgrades to the parking lot at Little Bay Park were completed with a comfort station. Funding for improvements to Joe Michaels Mile, running the length of Bayside’s waterfront, is in the works as well as food concessions at Bayside Marina.
Fort Totten is expecting 15,000 people the fireworks display for 4th of July celebrations June 28 organized by Vallone, Parks and the Bayside Historical Society.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall