On “It’s My Park Day” (October 26th, 2014), I spoke with a handful of neighbors about their thoughts regarding Astoria Heights Park and its future. The following individuals and families were kind enough to take a moment from the various projects they were working on that day to answer some questions and all of this feedback helps keep Friends of Astoria Heights Park focused on advocating for our community accurately and passionately. Some of the questions I asked:
Please tell me about your personal connection to Astoria Heights Park?
What is your motivation for volunteering today?
What are your hopes for Astoria Heights Park?
“This is the go-to place to get outside and run around. We live nearby and are raising 3 elementary school aged children. We often meet up with friends here and we have met new ones as well. Outside exercise is important. As well, we have marked important milestones in this park: birthday parties, learning to ride bikes, playing soccer. Volunteering helps make this a better place. Making suggestions and changes both in the interest of fun and safety is relevant to what our kids and really all kids need today. The pool currently blocks view of the full playspace. We want to help create and maintain an environment that is conducive to exploration and creative engagement.” —Chad and Amy
“I come here every day with my 6 year old son. We play on everything every day. I did not know about Friends of Astoria Heights Park until today but am interested in learning more. I would like to see the park become cleaner. More plants would make it look nicer, too.” —Octavio
“I am here today as a High School volunteer. One of our program coordinators lives in this area and mentioned this as an opportunity for community service. However, I do not have a requirement to fulfill, I choose to participate in these types of projects with my friends. My playgrounds always had jungle gyms and slides. I loved to play tag. Now that I am older it would be great to have something like a climbing wall or an area designed for teens. My friends and I would probably be interested in events geared to us, like a science project, a sporting event, even yoga. Sometimes we need a reason to go to a playground or park. Teens need a place to be in neighborhoods, too.” —Darron
“We live closest to this playground. My two boys, ages 2 and 5, need to be outside whenever possible to run and breathe fresh air. We do go to other local playgrounds but this is our primary one. I am also alive, I also need to go outside. Here I feel part of a community. I moved here ten years ago from Algeria. This city embraced me, so I embrace it. I love people and have made new friends here just as my children have. I enjoy the events we attend in the park. The book swap, the bicycle lessons, the potluck meals. These intracultural exchanges push all of us to recognize tolerance and to celebrate our neighborhood families. Making the park safer by adding gates at the entrances is important. Also, I would love to see a dance event here, perhaps with folk tales being told.” —Goucen
“I live on the other side of Astoria but found out about FAHP via Twitter. I wanted to come volunteer today. Even though I have no children, I think it is key for the whole neighborhood to support the mission of local parks and playgrounds. Making one part of the community better helps the rest of the areas too. It would be great to see more young people involved with the parks. I know volunteering is one way I meet other Astorians and people who share my interests.” —Ashley
[Nota Bene: By law, only adults with children may be in playgrounds in NYC, AHP is mixed-use but something to be mindful of. —Jenny]
“I’m in Key Club at my High School – it is a volunteer organization that provides community service to the 5 boros. I grew up in Woodside but this is my first time in this park. Being outside is fun. Parks are important they are a safe area to be with my friends. When I was younger I was always on the slide or hogging the swings. Now that I am older, even if I want to play on the structures I am worried about the littler kids. I would love a place to climb onto and sit with my friends. My volunteer work has taught me about stewardship. I feel I belong to the places I have helped. This park could use big kid swings and maybe a bigger slide.” —Fabliha
“I basically came here every day when my son (now 6) was younger, now we use it a few times a week. Fresh air and exercise are critical to his development. Volunteering here is a great way to get our community together and it fills the gap between what the park needs and the resources available. My mom did things like this when I was a baby and it helps develop ownership of space and continuity of community. With some funding more staff, at different hours, would be ideal. We need better facilities or spaces for older kids. The current equipment is not holding their interest. There are some logistics problems as well – too many exits – not enough gates. The pool gets in way of being able to have eyes on the children who run around it. We have enjoyed year-round use of the playground. More events like the ‘Winter Olympics’ and summer craft parties are needed.” —Colette
[Nota Bene: Gates have in fact been added to the Astoria Heights Park entrances; it is up to all of us to keep them closed. —Jenny]
“We are here all the time. We moved here from Egypt. We came today to help clean the park. We have 2 brothers (4-year-old twins). This is the closest park to our home and we come to play and have fun with our friends and classmates.”
Ream: The park could be a better place and look more beautiful.
Mohamed: I do not want it to look all dirty with garbage.
Ream: I love the swings but am getting too big for the baby ones. I enjoy the pool and sprinklers in the summer.
Mohamed: The exercise equipment is fun. I enjoy climbing there. The bathrooms could be better but at least we have them. There is more graffiti in the park, how can we get rid of it?
What new things do we hope to see here?
Mohamed: Big kid swings. Climbing places.
Ream: A roller coaster.
“Whenever I have an opportunity I will bring my son here to commune with nature and to enjoy the season. Astoria Heights Park has been invaluable to me as a parent as I’ve been fortunate enough to meet with like-minded parents. This is a hub of the community. We come when we are happy and when we need support. I volunteer as part of the community to help maintain the space. I give back to this place. Action is critical as complaints only go so far. I hope AHP continues to grow as a place for us to come together. I hope the remodeling is sympathetic to the area and meets the needs of children and adults. This is OUR place. What we find in this playground is diversity. As an outsider, (moved here from the UK) Astoria is the one neighborhood where we all live side by side and in the playground we have everybody and everybody gets on. Just look at the group here today. Everybody’s got kids and we’re all in here.” —Tolu
Interviews & Photography: Jenny Lando
Story Idea & Editor: Adam W. Cohen