Elected and city officials joined community leaders last Wednesday to unveil the completed second phase of Hunters Point South Park in Long Island City. The 5.5-acre extension offers residents much-needed open green space while the neighborhood continues to grow in population.
“It’s a dream come true what happened here,” said Mark Christie, a 20-year resident and vice president of the Hunters Point Park Conservancy. “We couldn’t ask for a better space.”
Combined with the first phase of the Hunters Point South Park, which opened in August 2013, the Long Island City waterfront now boasts 11 acres of parkland in what used to be an industrial shipping hub.
The green space features pedestrian and bicycle pathways, adult fitness equipment, a playground, picnic areas, 1.5 acres of wetlands and a 30-foot-high cantilevered platform over the East River. The park will be operated and maintained by the Parks Department.
Phase II of the park will include a kayak launch, a future boathouse for the waterfront and educational programming for residents and students.
Christie said the first phase of the park has more active uses, while the newly opened section is more passive and quiet. It gives users a chance to run, work out or just enjoy the waterfront.
“There are all these little secluded areas,” he said. “It feels like you need that, [if you have] a crazy day and you come to this peace and tranquility spot. It’s pretty cool.”
The $100 million investment from the city is part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to build mixed-use affordable housing in Hunters Point South.
In addition to the waterfront park, the city also improved the infrastructure by building 3,400 linear feet of new roadways, new sewers, water mains and utilities.
The city plans to build 5,000 units of residential housing, 60 percent of which is permanently affordable, in the area.
James Patchett, president and CEO of the city’s Economic Development Corporation, said parks in cities like New York are an oasis for kids to ride their bikes, run and play.
“Think about the way that will change and improve people’s lives, having an opportunity to go to a park like this,” he said. “We believe this is the crown jewel for Long Island City.”
Patchett added that Hunters Point South Park is their latest effort to convert former industrial spaces into green space for a neighborhood historically underserved by parks.
“It feels like you’re in the middle of nowhere. It’s fabulous,” he said. “You can’t even see the buildings around you, you have an opportunity to really lose yourself in the park and the waterfront.”
The park will serve not just the immediate Long Island City community, but residents throughout the borough and beyond. Pat and Michael Pilla from New Hyde Park went to the ribbon-cutting ceremony last week to celebrate the opening.
“I love this, I could live here right in this park,” Pat Pilla said. “It’s safe, it’s clean and people are so friendly.
“And there are so many things to do here, you never get bored,” she added. “I can come here every single day.”
Pilla said to see the transformation of this area, from a formerly industrial hub to a brand new park, is “like a miracle.” She encouraged everyone to see it for themselves.
“If you’re a traveler, even from other states and countries, you’ve got to come here to actually see what this is about,” Pilla said. “It’s phenomenal the way they built it.”