Hunters Point group demands youth recreation center from developers

Hunters Point group demands youth recreation center from developers
Courtesy WXY architecture + urban design
By Bill Parry

The unprecedented growth in Long Island City continues with 22,000 residential units either being constructed or in the planning phase, but none include plans for something the neighborhood has been desperate for: a recreation center for the thousands of teens and young adults who will enter the community as a result. The Hunters Point Civic Association is hoping to change that.

The association is posting an online petition at Change.org directed at developer TF Cornerstone, the city’s Economic Development Corporation and Plaxall, the family-owned company that has made Long Island City its home for more than seven decades.

“A recreation center for our children is vital to keeping our community a vibrant family neighborhood,” Hunters Point Civic Association President Brent O’Leary said. “If these essential neighborhood features do not keep pace with development, we will lose the neighborhood and be a dormitory for Manhattan.”

While the neighborhood has plenty of park space along the East River waterfront, with Gantry Plaza State Park and Hunters Point South Park and its new addition under construction, those areas cannot be used for physical activities during the winter. Although many believe this need will be fulfilled by area schools, the online petition cites studies that show otherwise. A 2015 report from Comptroller Scott Stringer’s office found that nearly 30 percent of the city’s 1,700 public schools have no indoor space for physical exercise and that more than 32 percent lack a full-time certified physical education teacher. A separate study by the city’s Department of Education showed that almost one-third of city students did not get the state-mandated minimum of gym classes for the school year that ended in June 2016.

“These figures should alarm all parents and couples who wish to start a family in our neighborhood,” the petition warns, “because less time that teens and children spend participating in recreational activities, the more time they spend on smartphones and the internet.” Increased exposure to that medium, the petition continues, “has pointed to a staggering spike in teenage depression and suicidal thoughts, according to a 2017 study published in the Clinical Psychology science journal.”

The Hunters Point Civic Association thinks the time is right to renew the call for a state-of-the-art recreation center in one of the three new proposed or planned projects, as space is running out in the neighborhood. “These developments which are seeking zoning variances to add more residential areas, or which are financed with taxpayer money, need to help bear the burden of this additional strain on our resources and contribute to the community,” the petition says.

So far, only Plaxall, which is seeking to build its 5,000-unit Anable Basin project, sounds receptive to the association’s push.

“We’ve heard from a number of local stakeholders about the need for a recreation center in LIC,” a Plaxall spokesman said. “We appreciate the constructive feedback and look forward to continuing to hear from neighbors as we refine our plans.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by email at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.