Queensbridge residents love their neighborhood park along the East River, but they don’t want the twain to meet. Now they can have some piece of mind that they won’t.
Officials and activists gathered in Queenbridge Park on Vernon Boulevard under the summer sun Tuesday to celebrate the completion of a $6.65 million seawall and 6-foot-wide promenade with benches and plantings with a small fishing wharf at the northern end. The planning took more than a decade, but once construction started, it was completed in a year.
“It’s been a long time coming, but it’s here now,” said Elizabeth McQueen, president of Friends of the Queensbridge Park and a resident of the area for 50 years.
The seawall was reinforced with a rip-rap revetment, in which carefully sized, large stones are placed in a stable, staggered pattern on a slope to absorb the energy of waves and water.
The City Council contributed $3.65 million, and funding of $1 million came from the Queens Borough President’s Office, $1 million came from the Mayor’s Office and $1 million came from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The Economic Development Corporation managed the project.
“Now every child who plays on this field will know that they are every bit as good, as worthy, as any child who plays on any field in Manhattan,” said City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside).
He noted that the park had fallen into disrepair over the years, which he said was part of a previous pattern of less attention paid to smaller and outerborough parks.
The project illustrates the efforts made by the Parks Department to plan and prepare for long-term climate change, said Commissioner Mitchell Silver. In addition to the seawall, which protects against erosion of the shoreline, the project included an effort to replace paved surfaces where possible to increase absorption of water and prevent runoff.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens) said that she remembered the original planning about a decade ago for a waterfront “green necklace” of parks along the shoreline under the administration of former Mayor Bloomberg.
“It got to Queensbridge, and it stopped,” Maloney said, adding that she and other officials and advocates fought for Queensbridge Park to be included in the shoreline plan.
“My heart is singing because it is even more beautiful than I expected,” she added.
Among those who attended the ceremony was 86-year-old World War II Army vet and Queensbridge resident John Smith Sr. Smith wants to see a veterans memorial in the park and start a veterans group for Queensbridge Houses — the largest public housing project in the county. He noted that other, smaller housing projects such as Sunnyside have active veterans groups.
Residents will have a variety of reasons to check out the new seawall this summer.
Van Bramer noted that he has secured $2 million for the renovation of the park house, a project that hasn’t yet begun. McQueen’s Friends group will host a Children’s Day on July 12 and a Family Day on July 19. The city Parks Department will host a Family Day on July 20, and Queensbridge’s free evening Summerstage events begin on July 15.