In 2014, the city embarked on a mission to restore 35 community parks around the five boroughs. In 2016, that number increased to 67 parks, and on Sept. 25, Mayor Bill do Blasio and Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver announced that Chappetto Square would be among the latest spaces to receive a “full reconstruction.”
“When we talk about improving parks in New York City, we’re really talking about improving the lives of New Yorkers,” de Blasio said. “The Community Parks Initiative focuses on parks and neighborhoods that have faced the most historic disinvestment and serve dense, growing populations so every New Yorker can be proud of their neighborhood park.”
The parks chosen as part of the initiative are in neighborhoods where there are higher concentrations of poverty where parks and green spaces have not received attention. A total of $318 million will be allocated to parks that have received less than $250,000 over the past 20 years.
Chappetto Square, located near the RFK Bridge along Hoyt Avenue North, includes a memorial to Peter Chappetto, an Astoria resident who was killed in action during World War II. It previously acted as a roller hockey field though residents now use it to play volleyball, soccer and softball.
Anthony Liberatoscioli, a board member of the Astoria Park Alliance, said that the park is heavily utilized by the community and is also where his daughter learned how to ride a bike. Though he is happy to see money allocated to the space for improvements, he would like to see the Parks Department retain its features.
“I believe that Chappetto Square retains a tremendous amount of value to the community as an open, paved, gated space, and I would hate to see that changed through over development,” he said. “The open nature allows it to be a very multipurpose destination that works well for dog owners who come in the mornings, young children on bikes and scooters in the afternoon, and the volleyball games in the evenings.”
The money, he argues, should go to adding and improving the amenities that already exist at Chappetto Square.
For example, more benches around the perimeter would allow patrons not playing volleyball to have a place to sit and watch the games. There are currently only two benches at the space and most people are forced to sit on the ground when not playing.
Additional trees and shade structures would create a more comfortable atmosphere for children and parents and a water fountain with a bottle-filling station and lowered spigot for dogs could greatly improve the experience for parkgoers and pets, he said.
The ground is also sloped, which forces water to collect on the southeast corner of the park near the Chappetto memorial.
“In this time of Zika, having a regularly occurring large standing pool of water is a health hazard,” he said.
The design process will start in October and reconstruction will be completed sometime in the winter of 2020 or 2021. The Department of Environmental Preservation will also allocate $50 million to the parks to install green infrastructure such as rain gardens. Green infrastructure collects rain to keep it out of the sewer system and helps to reduce sewer overflows.
“The Community Parks Initiative has already begun to improve under-served parks in Astoria including Van Alst and Astoria Heights Playgrounds,” said Councilman Costa Constantinides. “We are looking forward to seeing upgrades at Chappetto Square. The capital improvements and added infrastructure upgrades will be enjoyed by children and families.”