Frank M. Charles Park is packed on a typical summer day. The thwack of tennis rackets and baseball bats in use and the laughter of children on squeaky swings is as common a sound as jets landing and subway trains snaking across the bay.
The park has seen some major changes in recent years. New playgrounds were built in 2010 and the athletic fields were repaired. But while parkgoers are enjoying the new facilities, one thing they are not enjoying is the litter on the ground, overflowing pails and unkempt baseball fields.
Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Far Rockaway) and U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-New York) are asking the federal government to pour some more money into the park for maintenance purposes. Because the park has been part of the Gateway National Recreation Area since the latter’s creation in 1972, it is managed by the federal government under the National Park Service.
“Federal resources are hard to come by,” Goldfeder said, pointing out that the Western United States gets the bulk of the NPS budget because the western states have more federally owned land, especially national parks.
But Dorothy McCloskey, president of Friends of Charles Park, said she has heard of similar problems in parks in the west and believes funding maintenance is a general problem with NPS. She believes part of the problem is the agency does not normally deal with urban parkland like Charles Park.
“Most of the land the National Park Service deals with, people don’t step on,” she said. She is happy for the support Goldfeder and Schumer are giving the park, but is not optimistic.
“There’s a vicious cycle of us putting in capital funding to rehabilitate the park but the improvements are not maintained,” she said. “Who is the National Park Service answerable to?”
McCloskey said most of the maintenance at Charles Park comes from volunteers.
“I can’t tell you how hard we have worked as volunteers to keep that park at least the way it is now,” she said.