Officials break ground on administrative building at Socrates Sculpture Park

Socrates Sculpture Park
NYC Parks and Socrates Sculpture Park officially break ground on a $5.7 million administrative park building and new programming. (Courtesy of NYC Parks/Daniel Avila)

It’s been more than 3 1/2 decades since a group of artists and community members from western Queens transformed an East River landfill and illegal dumpsite into an open studio and exhibition space known as Socrates Sculpture Park. During all that time, the cultural institution has lacked a proper administrative building, but that is about to change.

Elected officials, community leaders and NYC Parks officials on Sept. 21 broke ground on “The Cubes,” a new 2,640-square-foot, two-story building that will provide new facilities for the park’s administrative offices, arts education and community work, and create opportunities for year-round public programming.

“The new administrative facilities coming to Socrates Sculpture Park, ‘The Cubes,’ are the culmination of almost 30 years of work and advocacy from the community, and I’m so proud that they’re becoming a reality,” NYC Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue said. “Thanks to Socrates Sculpture Park and all of those that have contributed to this project, our next generation of artists will have a brand-new space to explore, learn and grow in the heart of Astoria.”

Designed by the innovative architecture studio LOT-EK, “The Cubes” will house a brand-new park facility, constructed from upcycled shipping containers honoring the neighborhood’s industrial roots. The new building will have two main functions: to serve as administrative offices for the Socrates Sculpture Park, and to provide an indoor space for curatorial, educational and community programming during the fall and winter months of the school year.

“I am thrilled that the construction of ‘The Cubes’ is underway and that Socrates will very soon have its home in the park for its staff and its visitors,” Socrates Sculpture Parks Executive Director Tamsin Dillon said. “I can’t wait to see this wonderful building, designed by LOT-EK, come to fruition and to be able to celebrate with our partners and funders and with our community. We are especially grateful to our wonderful supporter and trustee, Stuart Match Suna, for his generous gift as part of the funding for the building. This project is a game-changer for this unique and special place — part of our plans for a sustainable and resilient future.”

The $5,735,000 million project was made possible thanks to Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, the City Council and a private donation from Stuart Match Suna.

“Socrates Sculpture Park is one of the ‘World’s Borough’s’ true cultural gems and critical hub of artistry, expression and education. With ‘The Cubes,’ the park and its dedicated staff will be able to touch the lives of residents from across Queens all year long,” Richards said. “Congratulations to the Socrates Sculpture Park team on today’s groundbreaking and I look forward to cutting the ribbon on this stellar and sustainable space in short order.”

Suna is co-founder and president of Silvercup Studios in Long Island City and a longtime Socrates board member.

“I am proud to participate in Socrates Sculpture Park’s mission of bringing the arts to the New York City community,” Suna said. “Socrates’s programming for our local youth population is a critical asset to help foster creativity and innovation for a better future. I look forward to seeing what great work comes out of this space.”

Completion of the new facility is expected in early 2024.

“Socrates Sculpture Park is a treasured institution in our neighborhood. The Cubes are characteristic of Socrates as an innovator, community collaborator and arts educator — as evidenced by the use of shipping containers honoring this area’s industrial roots,” Community Board 1 Chair Marie Torniali said. “While The Cubes could no doubt stand alone as a wonderful architectural achievement, it will also provide indoor space for programming during winter months, a great amenity for the community and beyond.”