By Bill Parry
Free Wi-Fi service is now available in Gantry Plaza State Park, the 12-acre oasis along the East River waterfront in the Hunters Point section of Long Island City, the state Parks Department announced last Friday.
The expansion of the program builds on a free public Wi-Fi system already installed at Jones Beach, Robert Moses and East River state parks.
“New York’s remarkable state park system welcomes tens of millions each year, and more and more families are looking to explore the outdoors and make the most of precious leisure time by having access to popular convinces,” state Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey said. “Working with our partners, we are pleased to expand this valuable service at these treasured parks and destinations for the upcoming season, building on our commitment to improving the overall visitor experience.”
Users can access the service called “Oh, Ranger!” Wi-Fi by selecting the network on their devices and accepting terms and conditions. The service, including its equipment, installation, programming, and maintenance, is made possible through the support of Toyota.
“We’re grateful for this opportunity and hope that it will enhance the experience of visiting these New York public parks,” Toyota North America Vice President Steven Curtis said. In addition to providing free connectivity for visitors, the Toyota-supported public Wi-Fi is a digital information portal that can help educate visitors, identify park visitation patterns, generate awareness of upcoming programs and events, serve as an operations management tool, and promote volunteerism.
“We’re thrilled that Toyota’s ongoing commitment allows us to bring free internet to millions of visitors to New York state parks, as well as other iconic outdoor destinations all across America,” American Park Network Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Mark Saferstein said. “They’ve set a great example of how corporations can serve the public good. We look forward to collaborating with Toyota to encourage everyone to get outdoors.”
The leadership of the Hunters Point Parks Conservancy, which works to preserve and enhance the neighborhood’s parks, green spaces and waterfront, was pleased with the program’s expansion into Gantry Plaza State Park.
“It’s a great addition to the park,” HPPC President Rob Basch said. “Our Long Island City community has many people who work from home and effective Wi-Fi provides the opportunity for these people to use the park as the best office in the world.”
Today, the park is a popular destination due to its spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline along the four piers that jut out into the East River, as well as its manicured gardens and open spaces. The restored gantries, which were used to load and unload rail car floats and barges, serve as a reminder of the neighborhood’s post-industrial past
The vice president of the Conservancy, Mark Christie, flashed back to the early 1990s when he joined the late Bill Bylewski, the founder and longtime president of the Friends of Gantry, and began cleaning the waterfront and making it more accessible to the people of Hunters Point.
“It was all abandoned warehouses both north and south of the gantries and everything was neglected,” Christie said. “And now the park is coming up on its 20th anniversary in May. It makes me very proud that our park is high on the list with the state Parks Department with Jones Beach and Robert Moses State Park, the other crown jewels in the system.”
The Hunters Point Parks Conservancy is planning a 20th anniversary celebration at Gantry on May 5, which is I Love My Park Day, in which thousands of volunteers help beautify park spaces across the state.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr