Last weekend Long Island City residents joined Friends of Shady Park, arborists and politicians to brainstorm the park’s future.
“Biggest thing they want is the park opened ASAP,” said Sheila Lewandowski, who co-founded the Friends group with Caroline Paul. “They also can’t imagine the park without trees.”
Hurricane Sandy damaged the play equipment, ravaged the fence ringing the park, located on the south side of 49th Avenue between Vernon Boulevard and Fifth Street, and tore down seven trees in Andrews Grove, nicknamed Shady Park because of its giant lindens and pin oaks.
Part of the park has remained closed because the root pits of the fallen trees and broken play structure present a safety hazard for park goers. The smaller play structure on the west side of the park reopened in December.
The Parks Department is responsible for restoring the equipment and the fence and planting street trees.
However, the species that commonly line city streets did not give Shady Park its nickname. Planting those wouldn’t cut it, according to the friends group, state Sen. Mike Gianaris (D-Astoria), Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan (D-Sunnyside) and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) who have been pushing for larger trees.
During the weekend event, Van Bramer announced that his office secured $10,000 from JetBlue and Warner Bros. to help purchase larger trees.
Residents suggested many different types of trees including some silver lindens; pin oaks; Japanese okobos, which turn a bright red in the fall; and honey locusts. The Friends of Shady Park would like to plant a few lindens, but not as many as before. Lindens have a moderate wind tolerance compared to the high wind tolerance of the other suggested types.
“A mix of trees would be nice,” Lewandowski said.
The group is asking for 18- to 20-foot trees and about 3 to 4 feet around.
The Friends of Shady Park are organizing a group to help the Parks Department give the trees extra water and attention, because larger trees will need more care to get over the initial shock of transplanting, Lewandowski said.
A timeline for when the rest of the park could open is still up in the air. The volunteer group would like to see the trees planted by end of June. They are also pushing for the other repairs to happen simultaneously.
“Sure I would like it open tomorrow, but most important is safety,” Lewandowski said. “When we open, the fences and equipment will be fixed and safe, and trees in all of the pits. We don’t want to sacrifice one to speed through the other.”