Queens Needs Greenbacks
By ARLENE LEWIS
residents turn out this holiday week to enjoy the over 6,720 acres of parks that surround
them, they are learning that in many cases local park land just isnt what it used to
in funding have resulted in maintenance cuts, area closings, bathroom deterioration,
fountain destruction and an often depressing scenery as the City Parks and Recreation
Department fights hard to keep up with the strain that the weather and 2 million residents
put on local green spaces. However, Borough President Claire Shulman and a new, grassroots
group called the Queens Coalition of Parks (QCP) say we are losing the battle, and we need
more funds fast.
spokesperson for Shulman, stressed that Shulman is very concerned about restoring
our parks. Among the highlighted priorities that Borough Hall submitted July 1 for
the Fiscal Year 2002 budget was restoration of park services, including dead tree
removal, more maintenance staff, park enforcement rangers, and playground associates.
The Parks Dept. has only six plumbers in Queens to
maintain over 650 fountains like this one in Big Bush Park.
Mike Klein, co-manager of
(QCP) charges that although Queens has 50 percent of city trees, large acreage of
parkland, and numerous ballfields, funds alloted out of this years $160 million
budget does not correspond to the boroughs needs. Queens should get their fair
share and then some, said Klein.
He also told the Tribune
that this years budget dipped $5 million from last year in spite of the severe lack
of services at parks. There are two gardeners and three recreational directors, six
plumbers servicing 398 bathrooms and 690 fountains, in addition to pools and other
facilities, Klein said.
He added that enforcement
services provide 18 officers, one officer for every 325 acres of land, with only two
officers on duty after 6 p.m. In addition, there are no dedicated ballfield maintenance
crews for Queens 200-plus ballfields, insuring more dirt than grass on the fields.
Queens Parks Commissioner
Richard Murphy told the Tribune, If we got more money, could we do better
absolutely. We are a premier agency working with a lean machine. We maximize our
resources and do the best we can with what we have.
Due to funding, the city no longer maintains any diving
pools like this
one at Astoria Park Pool.
Some of these parks
need major capitol renovation, like Maurice Park Ballfield, Murphy explained.
added, Grass cannot grow when leagues are playing on them seven days a week.
It needs better management.
Meadows Corona Park Administrator/Assistant Queens Parks Commissioner Estelle Cooper, said
It could be better, but we get enough.
theres not enough money people have to help themselves. The public/private
partnership always works. Now we will have to educate the new wave of politicans about the
importance of parks. I hope we get the one percent.
Councilman Sheldon Leffler, a Queens member of the Finance Committee, said the city had
tried to save money by using workfare and public/private partnerships to fund
parks, but it didnt work.
public/private funding is worth another try, but it hasnt worked in Queens up to
now, he said. The effort is worth supporting and hopefully well
get the increase. I will continue to support their objective.
Meanwhile on June 23, the
courts werent ready at the Real Good Park in Rego Park for the first day of the
Hendricks, commissioner of the City-Wide Athletic Association and a Queens resident, has
first-hand knowledge of the parks conditions.
to buy brooms in order to clean the courts ourselves every weekend prior to the games.
Ive been asking for the last four years to get the lines repainted, the ground
evened out, and the trees pruned. Nothing has been done.
Growing concern for the
decline of Queens parks has motivated several Queens residents to form the Queens
Coalition of Parks (QCP) a group that has joined forces with the non-partisan,
citywide campaign Parks 2001 to educate the public and city officials about the
importance of parks and the need for increased public funding to nurse our citys
park system back to health.
slogan One Percent for Parks is designed to send a message to
the citys budget authors that more money needs to be allocated for maintenance and
operation of Queens parks. In the current budget plan, four tenths of one percent (0.4
percent) of city dollars goes to the parks. QCP said that increasing that allocation to
just one percent of the citys budget going to parks would for regular cleaning,
maintenance, recreation staff, increased enforcement and park ranger assistance, increased
volunteer programs, and provide horticultural and forestry services.
With only three full-time recreation directors in the
borough, recreation centers like this abandoned one in Queensbridge Park sit in a state of
despair and uselessness.
QCP is made up of
volunteers from various civic, athletic, and neighborhood groups who believe that local
community parks can once again have water fountains, bathrooms, grass covered ballfields,
and the ambiance of yesteryear.
of these services are provided by the Parks Department, they are only
band-aids, said Mike Klein, QCP co-manager. The intent is good, but
without an organized program to keep up maintenance, it wont work.
city spends far below the national average for parks, Klein added.
Fred Kress, president of QCP and long-time Queens resident said The kids know
whats going on. Ask the Little Leagues about the lack of facilities. They have to
make deals with local restaurants like McDonalds to use bathrooms and get water.
Its a shame our children have to do that.
As QCP continues to meet, evaluate parks,
and build strength for their funding campaign, they are looking for more voices to shout
with them and speak for the parks. For more information, call 341-1395.
Stay Cool At Queens Pools
residents now have a cool way to shake the summer heat after the Parks Department
following the opening of four outdoor pools in Queens, on June 29th.
will be in use until Labor Day, providing an inexpensive and local day of fun.
The pools can
be used for free, and are open to all the public.
are on duty at all times and paramedics are on call to make sure that the pools are safe
for all swimmers.
regulations look to increase safety this year, requiring that each lifeguard on duty
patrol only fifty feet, leaving some sections of the public pools un-watched and
the Parks Department received complaints after opening day that the unusable sections made
the rest of the pool crowded, Commissioner Henry Stern said that most days pools are not
filled to capacity, so the new regulations should not be a problem.
first, he said. The new laws make sure people are safe, and thats
important. Visitor traffic is usually light. It was crowded opening weekend because of the
extreme heat. Thats unusual. The pools will be fun. No need to worry.
Most of the
outdoor public pools are Olympic-sized because they were built in the 1930s when pools
were the only way people could cool off.
Pools had to
be large to meet with the demand, and most of them have a capacity of about 3,000 people.
With the invention of air conditioning, however, pool use has declined, so Stern believes
that there will be plenty of room in the oversized pools for anyone who wants to swim.
to the large pools, which come in both indoor and outdoor varieties in Queens, there
are also several mini-pools located in schoolyards and small playgrounds across Queens.
Wading pools are available for infants and young children at some of the large pool
locations, as well.
lockers available for all swimmers, but those interested in using them must bring their
open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and are reserved for the elderly and disabled from 11 a.m. to
1 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Pools in Queens include:
Astoria Pool, 19th Street and 23rd Terrace in Astoria
Fisher Pool, 32-25 99th Street and 32nd Avenue, East Elmhurst (wading pool)
Liberty Pool - 106-22 173rd Street, Jamaica (wading pool)
Pools In Queens include:
Roy Wilkins Park Pool, enter at Merrick Boulevard and 119th Street, Jamaica
Marie Curie Park
Pool, 46th Avenue and 211th Street, Bayside
J.H.S. 10 Pool, 31st Avenue and 45th Street in Long Island City
P.S. 186 Pool, 252-12 72nd Avenue in Bellerose
Windmuller Park Pool, 39th Road and Woodside Avenue, Woodside