The city broke ground on the $2.9 million reconstruction of the baseball field at Whitey Ford Field along the East River in Astoria.
The dilapidated facility at the northwest edge of Halletts Peninsula will receive an extreme makeover including natural grass turf and brand-new dugouts. The field’s entrance will also be reconstructed to provide a more welcoming point of entry for visitors along Second Street.
The project will add new amenities including fitness equipment, picnic tables, drinking fountains, pavements and seating areas to the site. In addition, the existing sports lighting poles will be revamped to provide increased visibility on site.
“Whitey Ford Field is heavily used by Astoria’s young athletes and we’re committed to providing our youth with quality open space,” NYC Parks Queens Borough Commissioner Michael Dockett said. “With brand-new turf and enhanced entryway and new amenities, this project is a remarkable investment into this beautiful waterfront gem.”
The $2.9 million project was funded by $493,000 from Mayor Bill de Blasio, $1 million from Councilman Costa Constantinides and $1.5 million from former Queens Borough President Melinda Katz.
“Whitey Ford grew up in Astoria with the dream of making it in Major League Baseball, but he hardly could have imagined that his dream would come true less than seven miles away on the pitcher’s mound at Yankee Stadium,” Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said. “Today’s groundbreaking on the reconstruction of Whitey Ford Field will pave the way for a first-class facility where Astoria’s ballplayers of today can work on making their own dreams come true.”
In 1942, Parks Commissioner Robert Moses petitioned the city to assign this property, located along the East River at 26th Avenue and Second Street on Halletts Point to Parks after the Board of Education stopped using the facility. The site was assigned to the parks department and became known as Astoria Athletic Field in October 1943.
At a special Yankee Stadium ceremony in August 2000, the field was dedicated to the “chairman of the board” – Astoria native Whitey Ford. In 1947, Ford signed with the New York Yankees and went on to become a Cy Young Award winner, six-time World Series champion and one of the greatest pitchers in Yankee history.
Ford died last fall at the age of 91.
“One of the greatest pitchers in Yankee history, Edward Charles “Whitey” Ford remains a legend of the game more than 50 years after his retirement,” Constantinides said. “Although we sadly lost him last year, his memory will live on forever in his native Astoria through Whitey Ford Field. With today’s groundbreaking, we will ensure that this park is there for generations to come so that future ballplayers can follow in the footsteps of the chairman of the board.”