On Monday, construction workers were on the job at the site of the planned Little Bay Park comfort station and expanded parking lot off Cross Island Parkway, near the entrance to Fort Totten in Bayside, which should put somewhat to rest complaints from local residents that the project has been at a standstill for years.
While estimates of the project’s anticipated completion date vary, knowing that progress is being made came as good news to Warren Schreiber, president of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance, who had earlier expressed concern about the much-delayed undertaking.
“I’m pleased that it’s happening,” he said. “We want the work done. The problem is the conflicting information. The contractor tells us around Christmas 2015. The Parks Dept. is giving the date of fall 2014 and claiming it’s on schedule.”
As reported earlier in the Queens Chronicle, groundbreaking for the $5 million project took place in March. According to Schreiber, “We waited eight years for work to begin. The money was in place for eight years,” including, he said, $1.3 million from the city and over $3 million in federal money, which was obtained by then-Congressman Gary Ackerman.
“After eight years,” he added, “ they gave us three days’ notice that they’ll begin work, necessitating the abrupt closing of the existing parking area, sending park visitors scrambling for on-street spaces. That doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
“Since May 15, I have not seen any work whatsoever. I have other really good sources that tell me they almost never see any work. Parks says, ‘not so,’ claiming they put in the containment tanks for the comfort station,” Schreiber said.
“Parks claims all the permits are in place,” he added, though he had been led to believe that the delays were due, at least in part, to lack of proper permits. “We’re getting a lot of different stories. So what’s the truth here? I don’t know. It raises some red flags. It’s not unreasonable that we’re questioning what’s going on.”
One of the workers at the site, who wished to remain anonymous, said they were getting ready to start the comfort station “any day now. The drainage is in for the parking lot. We worked on that for two months. It needs to be tweaked. Twenty-nine of the thirty-four dry wells are in.”
Next on the agenda, according to the worker, is to “start the foundation,” pending approval from the Buildings Department. “It takes a little time,” he said.
The project will serve users of both Little Bay and Fort Totten parks. The existing parking lot will be reconstructed and new planted islands, or swales, will be added to improve the air quality and reduce stormwater runoff.
In addition, plans call for the Brooklyn-Queens Greenway, which currently runs along the southern end of the park, to be relocated along the waterfront and extended into Fort Totten Park.
The project is designed to improve public access to both parks.
According to Zachary Feder of the Parks Department, “The project remains on schedule to be finished by the projected completion date of fall 2014, the date we announced when we broke ground.”
Refusing to give her last name, Halina of Little Neck, said of the planned construction, “It’s a fantastic idea because of the number of people who come here. That would be really convenient.” On her way with her six-year-old son Nolan to the swimming pool at Fort Totten, she added, “They have an ice-cream truck so why not a comfort station?”