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Queens Chronicle

A helping hand for Howard Beach park

Charles Park’s problems coming to a head. Can we help? city asks

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Posted: Thursday, August 15, 2019 10:30 am

Can things be looking up for long-neglected Charles Park, the neighborhood playground and ball field at the foot of Old Howard Beach under federal jurisdiction?

Complaints about the condition and safety of the park on 165th Avenue between 95th and 99th streets are nearly as old as the park itself, which was put under the control of the National Park Service in 1972.

Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) and the Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy are expected soon to put the final touches on a package of financial aid for the park, about $55,000 in all, to fix up the entrance and install plants along paths and near the beach.

If the amount does not seem significant at first glance, it is the direction the money is flowing — from local government to a federal agency — that is unusual.

“That park has to fight for every penny,” said state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach).

“They are fighting for the same pool of money that goes to the Statue of Liberty and every national park in the country.”

Like a fly ball that falls between outfielders, who is responsible for Charles Park has been something of an unanswered question.

“It’s a neighborhood park under the jurisdiction of the federal government,” said Betty Braton, chairwoman of Community Board 10. “They don’t really know what to do with it. They know how to handle a big thing like the wildlife sanctuary, but they can’t figure out how to take care of a little neighborhood park.”

Charles Park and nearby Hamilton Beach Park were ceded to the NPS by the city nearly a half century ago when Congress created the Gateway National Recreation Area out of land on Jamaica Bay, Staten Island, the Jersey shore and the adjacent waters.

Regular visitors and those who live nearby have been filling up the Howard Beach Facebook pages in recent weeks with complaints about trash in the park, cars pulling up onto the paths inside it and the beaches — which permit fishing only — being used to launch boats and jet skis.

“If it was a city park,” said Addabbo, “we’d have a lot more NYPD patrols.”

But he believes NPS has reached a point where it is willing to accept more outside aid.

Ulrich and the Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy staged a walk-through of Charles Park with NPS officials last May, making a checklist of needs, including new paint on the handball courts and a repurposing of the horseshoe pits.

Some time later, said Alex Zablocki, exective director of the conservancy, the two softball fields “could use some improvement.”

The decision will have to be made, and the money found, to convert the fields to artificial turf and perhaps turn one of the diamonds into a soccer field.

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