With his two terms representing southeast Queens winding down, Councilman I. Daneek Miller joined community leaders and NYC Parks officials Friday, Dec. 17, to announce major changes at Roy Wilkins Park in St. Albans.
The city will invest $92 million in funding to build a brand-new, 35,000-square-foot recreation center that will be located on Merrick Boulevard between 116th Avenue and Baisley Boulevard. The new facility will include a gym, fitness rooms and multipurpose rooms.
“Roy Wilkins Park and its forthcoming recreation center epitomize what recreational spaces are meant to do — serve the entire community,” Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said. “The Roy Wilkins Park recreation center will serve many generations of southeast Queens residents and will ensure the post-COVID ‘new normal’ for this community will be better than it ever was before. I deeply thank Mayor de Blasio for funding this project and encourage the entire community to contribute their ideas to the project’s design process, which is getting underway.”
Construction will be led by the Department of Design and Construction using the design-build method.
“Fairness and equity have always been a cornerstone of this administration, and Mayor de Blasio’s investment of $92 million to build a brand-new recreation center in Roy Wilkins Park demonstrates that commitment,” NYC Parks Commissioner Gabrielle Fialkoff said. “This new center will be a space where community members from St. Albans and the surrounding neighborhoods can utilize, get fit, learn and have fun. We look forward to beginning our design process next month with a public input session to hear directly from the community.”
The 61-acre green space has for decades been maintained by the Southern Queens Park Association (SQPA) which also provides programming to southeast Queens families and other initiatives for young people. Previously, as part of SQPA’s lease, they were responsible for maintaining the grounds as a result of maintaining authority over permitting and revenue streams for utilizing the grounds.
However, in recent years the maintenance had become overwhelming for SPQA, including acquiring the machinery and supplies necessary to maintain the park.
Miller announced that as of Oct. 1, NYC Parks has maintained the park and will be responsible for the park’s cleanliness, horticulture, play equipment, rule enforcement and permit applications. SQPA will continue to conduct its social service work and programming within the recreation center without interruption.
The building facilities will be shared by SQPA and Parks staff. The shift from SQPA to Parks will create 14 full-time, union jobs along with 12 seasonal maintenance positions as well.
“There’s been a perception that because Roy Wilkins Park has not always met expectations aesthetically that it is SQPA dropping the ball, which could not be further from the truth,” Miller said. “SQPA has done incredible things for the community in terms of human and social services and educational programs but has also been limited by the responsibility of maintaining the park. With this baselined funding for permanent, full-time Parks staff, we are not only creating new family-supporting jobs but also ensuring that the proper care and attention can be given to the grounds.”
Thanks to an additional $1.63 million in funding, Parks will hire the full-time and seasonal staff to provide maintenance, enforcement and programming to Roy Wilkins Park. The funding also includes vehicle and equipment purchases to meet the needs of both Operations and Parks Enforcement Patrol (PEP).
“There is real value in bringing on full-time staff, and we are grateful for the support of the city in getting this done and making it a budget priority for this fiscal year,” Miller said. “This is all in addition to the $92,000,000 in funding for a new recreation center and the numerous projects we’ve funded over the years to improve the park landscape and create flood mitigation tools.”
That funding allocated by Miller over the past eight years included improvements to the pond and other green investments.