Community leaders gathered at Hallets Cove to celebrate the renovations along the Astoria Houses shoreline. The renovations adjacent to the playground are scheduled to be completed by the end of this summer.
On Wednesday morning, June 29, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, Councilwoman Tiffany Cabán and Community Board 1 District Manager Florence Koulouris joined Astoria Houses residents for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the waterfront spot on Vernon Boulevard. The formerly dilapidated cove was in desperate need of repair, said the local leaders.
“Outside of our wonderful parks, most of District 22’s beautiful waterfront is inaccessible to the neighborhood,” Cabán said. “That’s why projects like this, which remove decaying and trashed infrastructure and revitalize the waterfront, are so exciting.”
The project cost $5 million, $3 million of which was allocated by the borough president’s office in 2016. The mayor and former Councilman Costa Constantinides each brought in an additional $1 million for the restoration.
Richards mentioned that these renovations were long overdue since the rest of the western Queens waterfront has already been invested in and developed.
“Over the years we heard many complaints from local residents about how Hallets Cove had become nothing more than a dumping ground. But thanks to this successful restoration project, Hallets Cove will no longer be a blight on this community,” Richards said. “Finally, we have beautiful new trees, new wetlands, new railings and more. This space has been transformed into the kind of oasis this community deserves, and that every community deserves.”
The City’s Economic Development Corporation broke ground in November and oversaw the removal of the debris and installed new railing. There were also ecological investments to replace invasive plants with new wetland vegetation to protect the coastline.
“It’s particularly gratifying that Astoria Houses residents, who for so long have been ignored by those in power, will have access to this beautiful stretch of waterfront right in their backyard,” Cabán said.
Koulouris said that this cleanup was desperately needed since there were old shopping carts, a fallen radio tower and pounds of litter deteriorating in the water.
“It was in dire need of attention,” Koulouris said. “Forgetting about the optics though, and looking at the health ramifications — the plantings will rejuvenate the waterfront. Our waterfronts need a lot of tender love and care.”
Koulouris said that all of the waterfronts in the district need funding for maintenance as well as beautification projects. The district manager also said the community board is working with the Army Corp of Engineers to ensure the rising tides will not damage all the work being done.
Claudia Coger, Astoria Houses resident and former Resident Association president, said that these investments will advance the health of the surrounding community, which suffers from disproportionately high rates of asthma.
“It gives me great pleasure to see the difference that has come to the peninsula,” Coger said. “This is history. It’s more than just a site for us who live here.”