"FRIENDS OF" GROUPS GETTING IT DONE
With about 7,300 acres of parkland, roughly 10.13% of the borough, and approximately half of New York City's street trees, Queens is one of the greenest boroughs in New York City. The borough's system includes historically important parks such as Flushing Meadows Corona Park and, soon, Fort Totten, as well as rare natural areas such as Alley Pond Park on Forest Park. Some of Queens' other parks have become jewels of the borough through the hard work of their "Friends of" groups.
For the past several years, the Friends of Queensbridge Park, led by Ms. Elizabeth McQueen, have turned a dilapidated and troubled neighborhood park into a place that parents are excited to bring their kids. Through their work with Partnerships for Parks, the Friends of Queensbridge have been actively involved in the park's care. "It's My Park Day" and "Fall Clean-Up Day" have helped get the community involved and have made the park a place that is safe for neighborhood kids. During the summer, with the assistance of Outreach Coordinator Thomas Panzone, Friday night concerts featuring Jazz, Latin, Salsa and Street Drum music turned Queensbridge Park into a festival of melody. The Friends of Queensbridge Park have also been able to bring City Parks Foundation programming and other community organized events to the park through funding from the J.M. Kaplan Fund. This programming has included such wonderful kids shows as CPF's "Puppet's in the Park" and Dan Butterworth's Marionette Show
"Our park was not being used for quite a number of years. Now that I have become the warden and we have a committee of committed people, we have been able to revitalize the park," said Elizabeth McQueen. "The community has become aware that the park is once again active, and the Parks Department has helped us get a new bathroom for the community's use. This park is a huge asset for the community now that it is back on its feet."
Another "Friends of" group, A.R.R.O.W. or Astoria Residents Reclaiming Our World, is one of the best stories this city has to offer. During the early 1990's, a group of young, energetic residents of Astoria sought to engage in a campaign to encourage local residents to participate in recycling garbage. One of them, Sandra Robishaw, saw an abandoned lot off Steinway Street that was filled with garbage. The group decided to clear the lot of debris and turn it into a recreational community center for the neighborhood. ARROW is now a recreation center, and, with the support the City Parks Foundation and a grant from the Mellon Foundation, it is able to offer everything from afterschool programs for kids, Chinese Shadow Puppet Theater, Brazilian Capoiera and more. ARROW in the past has participated in "It's My Park Day," "Fall Clean-up Day," and other volunteer projects in and around their neighborhood.
The Friends of Cunningham Park have also been working hard to improve that park. The 358-acre Cunningham Park offers its visitors a wide array of recreational choices with ballfields, tennis courts, three playgrounds, and more. Though it is a very popular park and seems to have all the elements that make an ideal park, the Friends of Cunningham Park have found ways to significantly improve upon life in the park. Last year, through a grant from the J.M. Kaplan Fund, the Friends of Cunningham Park purchased a Gator. A Gator is a 6 X 6 vehicle that is capable of carrying materials to areas in the park where a larger vehicle would not be able to access. As soon as they got their Gator, they put it right to use. In conjunction with Thomas Panzone and Professor Julie Mankiewicz (and her students) from Queens College Environmental Studies, and through the support of the J.M. Kaplan Fund, a trail restoration project was started in the South Preserve of the park. The Trail Restoration will take place over a three year period, and in the end, Cunningham Park will have recreational trails the whole borough can enjoy. Improving the aesthetic of the park is not all this "Friends of" group does. This past summer they sponsored performances by the Metropolitan Opera House, and over the past year, they have been seeking to have the Vanderbilt Motor Parkway placed on the state and national register of historic sites. The Vanderbilt Motor Parkway, or Long Island Motor Parkway as it is called, was built around the early part of the 20th Century by the Vanderbilt family so that they could travel to their summer homes in Long Island. The road still exists and it runs through Cunningham Park. October 6th will be the dedication ceremony for the designation of the roadway as a historic site.
If you know of a volunteer or a Friends of group that you think deserves recognition please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org so that they can be given their due.
Written by Jeffrey Sandgrund, with the help of Thomas Panzone
QUOTATION FOR THE DAY
''You cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.''
(1835 - 1910)