Frank M. Charles Memorial Park in Old Howard Beach gets a community-based makeover

Photos courtesy of Alex Zablocki

Frank M. Charles Memorial Park in Old Howard Beach received a much-needed facelift thanks to City Councilman Eric Ulrich and a number of community groups.

The park, located along Jamaica Bay in the Gateway National Recreation Area, had upgrades made on its entrance, central pathway and handball courts.

“It is important that we continue to invest in our public parks, which play such a vital role in our communities, especially for our youth,” Ulrich said. “I’d like to thank the Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy, the Charles Park Conservation Society, Wildcat and NPS for their continued partnership in this initiative.”

Earlier this year, Ulrich invested $45,000 toward a number of improvements to the federally-owned park. Work began in the summer with the removal of 15,000-square-feet of turf along the park’s central pathway and, with the help of volunteers. Was transformed into a living landscape with 9,000 new plantings complete with an array of perennials.

“The central pathway and entrance to Frank M. Charles Memorial Park has been completely transformed. This spring, over 9,000 plants will come to life, offering multiple seasons on interest,” Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy Executive Director Alex Zablocki said. “This public-private partnership quickly resulted in positive changes for the park, its users and the Howard Beach community. The popular basketball and handball courts have been improved, and early next year, the Conservancy will complete this multi-phase project by reimagining the horseshoe court.”

Two patios were installed near the entrance of the park to allow better access to the pollinator gardens. JBRPC also installed new nets at the basketball court and the popular handball court was rehabilitated and painted in partnership with Wildcat.

The park has come a long way since 2015, when two Howard Beach sisters, Sherri Volkes and Debra McCann, created an online petition calling on the National Parks Service to clean up the waterfront space which they said was neglected and unsafe.

“It’s been a tremendous partnership,” Gateway National Recreation Area Superintendent Jen Nresian said. “We thank the Councilman for his support, and working together with the conservancy and local community members, we look forward to seeing this park continue to improve and shine.”

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