This article was originally published by The CITY on May 10
At the Brooklyn base of the Kosciuszko Bridge a gleaming new park attracts visitors from around the world. On the Queens side they have anger and frustration.
Residents of Maspeth who were promised some green space instead got a bridge to nowhere.
In late 2008, as part of a project to reconstruct the Kosciuszko Bridge between Brooklyn and Queens, state officials determined a park could be built at the base of each side. Initial projections said it would be done by 2020.
The state Department of Transportation completed the $873 million renovation of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway’s span over Newtown Creek in 2019.
Last year, officials cut the ribbon on the Under the K Bridge Park in Greenpoint, on the Brooklyn side of the suspension bridge.
But nearly 14 years after transportation officials identified a space for recreation in the Queens neighborhood of Maspeth, they’re not even close to completing a park there.
“What’s the delay?” said Tom Mituzas, a member of Queens Community Board 2, who has been asking for progress updates for the last two years. “Get it done.”
The designated park space, located on two parcels of land in an industrial area at 43rd Street and between 54th and 55th avenues, is currently shielded by a chain-link fence, a green tarp and signs that warn: “DANGER CONSTRUCTION AREA KEEP OUT.”
Inside, mounds of rubble and construction equipment reveal scant signs of progress on the nearly one acre site, previously used as a staging area for the bridge’s construction.
According to a state DOT spokesperson, “Work is already underway on the $16.6 million project” to construct what is being named Maspeth Park.
“Construction of the new park — which could not begin until the bridge was completed and the approval process was completed — is expected to be complete by Summer of 2023,” said the spokesperson, Diane Park.
The amenities will include green space, public restrooms, a basketball court, ping pong tables and a skate plaza, as well as new sidewalks outside of the park leading to the bridge’s bicycle and pedestrian path, Park added. Once the construction is complete, Maspeth Park will be turned over to the city Department of Parks and Recreation.
‘It’s the Best’
Local residents point out that this section of Queens suffers from a lack of green space, some large cemeteries aside, so it hurts to wait so long to get a single park built.
“We’ve been begging and pleading for green space in the Blissville area for 50 years,” said Mituzas, referring to a neighborhood close to Maspeth where his family has lived since 1907. “Our kids play in the street. We have no green space.”
Local politicians aren’t happy about the absence of a park either.
“It’s nice that we got a new bridge named after a great Polish hero,” said Councilmember Robert Holden, whose district includes parts of Maspeth, Ridgewood and Middle Village. “But we were also promised a new park to complement it. The state has been dragging its feet and they need to move ahead.”
State Sen. Michael Gianaris, whose western Queens district encompasses the park, said he’s disappointed with the project’s lack of results.
“I will continue following up with the DOT and holding them accountable until we finally see this new green space open,” he said.
In Greenpoint, meanwhile, people can enjoy a handful of green spaces and outdoor recreation areas in a small radius, including Msgr. McGolrick Park, Sgt. William Dougherty Playground and the newly built Under K Bridge Park.
As rain drizzled on Friday afternoon, the Under K Bridge Park provided a dry refuge for BMX bikers, a crew of skateboarders, parents and their small children.
“It’s the best place we could find that is semi-sheltered, and we could still ride bikes without getting wet,” said Billy Perry, 27, of Long Island, who had just arrived at the park, along with three friends who were visiting from Newcastle, England.
Local skater Finn Anderson said he discovered the spot a couple months ago, and especially enjoys the DIY obstacles that someone brought from Blue Park in Bushwick.
“It’s the best,” he said. “It’s my favorite park in the area.”
In 2017, days after the first span of the new Kosciuszko Bridge opened to traffic, transportation department officials attended an in-person meeting of Queens Community Board 2, and gave a presentation on their plans for a park.
“Going back about nine years, when we completed an environmental impact statement, the department made a commitment to construct, build a park on the Queens side,” said Bob Adams, director for the Kosciuszko Bridge project.
Adams explained the project’s timeline to the audience as the presentation, projected on a wall behind him, showed the final phase of construction ending in 2020.
Five years after that meeting, construction appears to be barely getting started.
Last week, at a virtual meeting for the community board, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Queens/Brooklyn/Manhattan) told attendees the majority of funds for the new bridge came from the federal government, which she helped secure. She reminded everybody that part of the agreement entailed building a park on the Queens side.
“Everybody on the board should go to Brooklyn and see what Brooklyn did under their bridge,” she said. “They never built it under the bridge on the Queens side.”
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