By Bill Parry
State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) and several Long Island City community organizations are urging the city to include park space in Court Square as the neighborhood continues to grow at an unprecedented pace.
Gianaris called on the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development and the Department of Transportation to renovate public land located underneath the Queensboro Bridge ramps between 23rd Street and Thompson Avenue and turn it into public space to reflect a proposal made in the 1999 Department of City Planning study.
“Long Island City is one of our fastest growing neighborhoods and we must ensure community needs are met as we grow,” Gianaris said Sept. 21. “More public park space must be part of the planning process and utilizing this parcel would be a great way to start.”
The public-owned lots are currently used by the city Department of Transportation and while the city can not build on them, it has proposed transferring air rights to The Lions Group, which plans on building two residential towers at 27-01 and 26-31 Jackson Ave. The Court Square Civic Association organized a rally against that plan last Saturday at the corner of Dutch Kills Street and Jackson Avenue.
“Court Square has seen explosive growth over the past several years with no investment in our fragile infrastructure,” Court Square Civic Association President Pedro Gomez said. “These three plus acres of underutilized public land have not adapted to the bustling 24/7 neighborhood we live in today. We have an opportunity to creatively adapt these lots to create a world-class urban park that will serve our community for generations.”
In a letter addressed to the two city agencies sent last Friday, Gianaris pointed to a successful transition of under-utilized public space in Astoria.
“We have seen success with under-bridge parks elsewhere in our community,” Gianaris wrote. “For example, the space underneath the Triborough Bridge is used very effectively as park space. We have the same opportunity in Long Island City to create a public space where it so desperately needed.”
Hunters Point Civic Association president Brent O’Leary, who last month announced his candidacy to replace City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) — who will be term-limited out of office in 2021 — endorsed the plan for more park space in Court Square.
“This is an amazing opportunity for the City to provide a critical resource to an area which has no green or open spaces. This is public land that can be turned into a dynamic urban park, and will be a test to determine who the city will listen to, the residents or developers.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr