CB14’s Parks Committee Approves 10 New Projects

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Lots of exciting things will be coming in the years ahead as the Parks Department builds new park areas and rebuilds old ones on the beach and bay sides of the peninsula. But as with anything, those projects must go through an approval process, and on Monday, September 16, it was the public and Community Board 14’s Parks and Public Safety Committee that got a say in some final designs of various Parks capital projects.

Dozens of CB14 members, Parks employees, and members of the public gathered at Martin de Porres High School on Monday to see some final designs of 10 different Parks capital projects and provide input. However, the meeting started with some well-deserved thanks and a cake for Portia Dyrenforth, the now former Rockaway Administrator for the Parks Department, as she has moved on to a new position with Parks.

As the guests enjoyed cake, various project managers presented the designs for the capital projects that included a Shore Front Parkway Obstacle Course, a Beach 98th Street Playground, the Beach 94th Performance Space, a Shore Front Parkway Labyrinth, a Shore Front Parkway Dog Park, a Shore Front Parkway Multi Purpose Area, new construction of the Beach 59th Street Playground, Boardwalk Access Ramps at Beach 24th and Beach 25th Streets, a redesigned Broad Channel Park and the new Bay Breeze Park and Kayak Launch on the bay at Beach 88th Street. Most of the projects are funded by leftover FEMA money, but are additionally funded by money acquired by Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and City Council.

The project managers briefly explained each project and then the floor was opened for the public to visit stations with each project, so that they could provide feedback. After the public had a chance to critique each project, the project managers went over the input and held an open discussion which resulted in motions made to approve each project, many with amendments to the original plans.

First up for discussion was the Shore Front Obstacle Course. This area, located next to the boardwalk at Beach 101st and 102nd Street will have active and passive spaces. It includes a pickleball court, tables and benches, an obstacle course that gives a full body workout with elements such as ropes courses, trees for shading and other plantings. The Parks Committee made a motion to accept the project, but with ribbon-style bike racks instead of round ones, plus additional seating. The motion was approved unanimously.

The Beach 98th Playground has different elevations, kids play areas with swings, slides and climbing elements and water play areas. The plan included limited lighting, with the assumption that the boardwalk lights would be enough to keep the playground illuminated, however this sparked concern. After some discussion, a motion was made to approve the project with the condition that Parks considers adding more lighting within the park, and that the design of the bike racks be changed. The motion was unanimously accepted.

The Rockaway Performance Space at Beach 94th includes a stage, and three different shells or arches that provide shade, with the highest being 36 feet. The design was well received, but some requested that color elements be added such as colored LED lighting and markings made on staircases to advise people not to sit on them. With these conditions, the project was approved unanimously.

The Shore Front Parkway Labyrinth from Beach 92nd to Beach 94th Street is meant to be a quiet area where people can walk around and reflect or meditate. It was well received, but some requested that the color of the labyrinth area be changed to something lighter and that more bike racks be added. With these conditions, the project was approved.

The Shore Front Parkway Dog Park planned for Beach 90th Street includes large and small dog areas with dog exercise elements. There are also trash receptacles, dog waste bag dispensers, a storage container and chain-link fencing to prevent pets from running out. The project was accepted as is.

The Multi Purpose area from Beach 77th to Beach 81st Street includes active and passive recreational space for intergenerational use. It is bordered by handball and basketball courts, but inside will be various lawn spaces, volleyball courts with terraced seating to view matches, adult fitness tools, shade structures and more. With a lot of lawn space, concerns were raised about maintaining the grass. A motion was made to accept the project with the conditions that more bike racks be added, ping pong table are added, watering options for irrigation are incorporated, additional elements are added for seniors, and barriers are added so that children don’t run into the street. The motion was accepted.

The Beach 59th Playground is planned to be reconstructed with new slides, play equipment, handball courts and swings, plus a shower feature that will spray water up from the ground. Concerns were made about low fencing, as unsafe incidents have been reported in this area. A motion was made to accept the project, but to keep the fencing height the same as it currently is, to add two handicapped swings, to provide additional shade, to change benches around the handball courts to backless benches and to make plastic slides instead of metal. The motion with these conditions was accepted unanimously.

The project to add boardwalk access ramps to Beach 24th and 25th Streets, where temporary ramps are currently located, had no issues and was accepted unanimously.

The reconstructed Broad Channel Park will include reconstructed walkways and basketball courts, sports areas like tennis courts and a roller hockey rink, currently under construction, a space for parallel parking, new game tables and new plantings. A motion was made to accept the park with the conditions that bike racks be included, a flagpole that has caused issues be eliminated, and benches toward the back of the park are moved so that no shady activities occur near them. The motion was accepted.

The most controversial project was saved for last, as there was a lot of feedback on Bay Breeze Park. This park, located on the bay and Beach 88th Street, includes a kayak launch, seating areas with shade by trees, a small play area with wooden, natural play structures, a lawn space and a salt marsh area, and a metal structure to house about 36 kayaks. The major concern with this plan was that it doesn’t include any restrooms in an area where there are no public restrooms nearby. Parks cited extremely high costs for the bathrooms that would take away from other elements of the park, and said a bathroom could be added at a later time when more funding is available. Another concern was the size of the boathouse. Rick Horan, who operates the current Community Boathouse, requested that it be made bigger to fit larger watercrafts. The salt marsh element was also a major concern as it could serve as a breeding ground for mosquitos. A motion was made to accept the park, with the conditions that the salt marsh be eliminated and replaced with native plantings that attract butterflies and birds, the playground area be made larger, picnic benches be eliminated, a shorter kayak path to the bay be added, the kayak storage area is made larger and bike racks are added. The motion was approved. Discussions about adding a bathroom to the park will take place once costs are provided and the funding is made available.

With all of the projects approved, the planning process can now move forward and proper permits can be filed. Rockaway won’t see most of the projects come to fruition until 2020.

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