Two key Howard Beach parks will be part of a federal program to clean up greenspace in Gateway National Recreation Area that was badly affected by Hurricane Sandy.
Last week, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced that the federal agency has established a youth corps and volunteer program aimed at repair and maintenance work in Gateway parkland in New York and New Jersey, which is operated by the National Park Service, a subset of the U.S. Department of the Interior.
The National Parks of New York Harbor Conservation and Resiliency Corps, a partnership between the federal and city governments and the Student Conservation Association, a youth corps program that focuses on environmental needs, began work in Gateway this month. All summer long, the corps, funded with $975,000 of Sandy aid money and private sponsors, including American Eagle Outfitters, will help clean up and maintain the park.
Daphne Yun, a spokeswomen for Gateway, said Charles Park and Hamilton Park — on the Jamaica Bay shoreline of Hamilton Beach — will both be part of the project. Both parks are part of Gateway and under the domain of the NPS.
“They will be removing debris from the shorelines of both Frank Charles Park and Hamilton Park,” she said in an email.“Additional work at Frank Charles Park includes painting over graffiti and doing pruning and planting on the grounds.”
The situation at Charles Park was bad even before the hurricane. Many residents of the area have long complained about the condition of the park.
“You can’t even play baseball on the fields,” one resident said. “The grass is up past your ankles.”
Last Thursday, NPS workers were on site clearing the baseball fields and trimming some of the overgrowth near the playground and tennis courts. But residents say there is still much more work to be done.
“Over the weekend, some of the baseball players came to play with their own rakes to clean the field,” said another resident who lives near the park, who noted that in the past, players have complained about dog feces being left on the grass there by people who bring pets onto the fields.
On the west side of the park, a large tree fell during Sandy, damaging a light pole. Both the tree’s stump and the pole are still there, partially blocking the circular path around the park. On the east side, the fences surrounding the tennis court are badly damaged.
Workers from The Doe Fund conducted a cleanup of Charles Park and Hamilton Park in April and a tattered American flag that billowed over the park was replaced in March.
Charles Park was eyed by the city as a site for concessions, such as food, bike rentals or boat launches earlier this year, but the city Parks Department backed off the idea after strong opposition from Community Board 10 and instead focused on other locations around the park, such as Canarsie Pier and Jacob Riis Park.
CB 10 told a representative from the Parks Department at its April meeting that it wanted to see the park cleaned and maintained before City Hall thought about bringing concessions there.