To The Editor (Queens Gazette):
I am writing to point out that needless delays in construction are keeping Queens parks facilities closed to recreation this summer. For example, only steps from the teeming Astoria Pool, the basketball courts are fenced, shut and empty. While it is apparent that many "improvements" have been made during the months of closure, there is new asphalt, but for some reason the hoops were removed from the poles and [have] not been restored. For this small reason the courts, once a preferred place for many excellent players to play, stand unusable. Queens residents, have we no pride in our game?
On the other end of Astoria, the Saint Mary's playing fields have been fenced shut for over a year. What was a perfectly serviceable (if well-worn) grassy field has now been covered in concrete. That's right, not even fake grass. Is this an "improvement" for our baseball and soccer players?
I challenge readers to contact our elected officials, who should root out the bureaucrats responsible for spending vast amounts of our tax dollars in this counterproductive way. Restoring missing hoops would make a good photo-op for the right official. We should also note that Astoria's problem is part of a city-wide problem in which city agencies apparently mainly exist to dole out money to construction companies and private enterprise. Parks are closed for years, while expensive renovations actually reduce the amounts of facilities for youth such as basketball courts. This is business as usual, even when most parks do not even have a bathroom and none of them that do offer open restroom facilities after 6 p.m.—in summer, parks remain open long after that! Again and again, youth (and all community members that appreciate time in a park) come last.
The mayor states that he would like to see schoolyards available for community use after school hours. But Bryant High School fenced their schoolyard several years ago—and for community groups it is strictly pay to play. This leads to terrible overcrowding in nearby parks while Bryant's green turf stands empty.
Moreover, the related drive to privatize publicly owned lands may price many of us out of our own taxpayer-funded parks. And unless we have new management in our city agencies, you and I will continue to be fenced out. In fact, what looks like a park is beginning to look more and more like a prison. That is not the Astoria I expect or the New York to be proud of. Maybe you do not hear the children's disappointment. You may not hear the players grumbling. But on behalf of the future residents of our neighborhood, let's free our green parks from red tape now!