“How many times in your life do you get a chance to look at the future?” — That was the introduction made by City Councilman James Sanders Jr. (D-Laurelton) at a community briefing last Wednesday regarding the revitalization of the Springfield Gardens Park area.
It will be the fourth and final phase of the $70 million project, which began in 2004, and aims to not only beautify the park and encourage the presence of wildlife, but to help alleviate the chronic flooding problem that has plagued the area. It is expected to be completed by fall 2014.
The new construction phase will improve drainage infrastructure by upgrading existing sanitary sewers and water mains and adding new storm sewers. The city will dredge Springfield Lake and build three new storm water wetlands — one upstream and two downstream — to provide a barrier for clean runoff before it flows into Jamaica Bay.
There will also be more than 89,000 new plantings, an environmental center, as well as new sidewalks and bike paths. Springfield Boulevard will get a median strip to absorb water runoff, and it will be widened and extended straight to 147th Avenue. The traffic signal that is now one block farther east at 147th and Springfield Lane will be removed and a signal will be installed at 147th and the newly extended boulevard, according to Jawad Assaf, the project manager for the city Economic Development Corp.
Due to its shallow depth, the lake has been collecting a lot of algae, Assaf explained. This project will deepen the depth, alleviating that problem.
“We realized there was a blockage downstream of the lake,” Assaf said. “We are going to replace two drainage pipes and the system is going to be one complete functioning ecosystem.”
Civic leader Barbara Brown asked where the wildlife would go while the dredging is taking place, noting that she saw two swans on the lake on her way to the meeting.
“All the fish and wildlife that exist in the lake will somehow have to be gathered, put in tanks and protected while the dredging takes place,” Assaf said. “It’s all very elaborate.”
Education advocate William McDonald asked if the park would be shut down while the construction is taking place but Assaf said the work would be done in sections to minimize any inconvenience for residents who visit the area, particularly children.
“The construction areas will always be protected at all times,” Assaf added. “There will always be fencing around the construction areas. Everything will be made safe.”
The Parks Department will be maintaining the area after its revitalization, Assaf said, even though the project is a collaboration between the city departments of Transportation and Environmental Protection under the supervision of the EDC.
“This type of project is a once in a lifetime project,” Sanders said, “and we need to seize this.”