Spring 2014 It’s My Park Day, Our Community Builds Momentum

The Spring It’s My Park Day event took place on May 18th at Astoria Heights Playground. Over eighty volunteers came out to help our park.  It was a beautiful day, mainly because so many people came out to express their support. Yes, the benches look better freshly painted. Yes, the tree beds look great with fresh mulch. That said, by far the best thing about the day has been the way our community comes together to help our cherished park.

People love parks. This truth is what drives us all to spend so much time in the park and out of the confines of the urban environment. Especially in the city, where we tend to lose ourselves in the concrete jungle, our parks mean even more to our sanity. Parks make for healthier communities. Parks allow us to find peace and beauty, calm and relaxation, inspiration, fitness and fun, and connection with our neighbors. At parks, we connect to nature and we connect to others. We find our truer selves in nature and we find ourselves in connection with others, too.

It’s My Park Day, and all of the events that Friends of Astoria Heights Park has hosted since last Fall, have been attempts at drawing our community together through our shared love of our park. A stronger community lifts up our Park, and an improved Park helps bring all of us closer together. At the recent It’s My Park Day event, it was truly inspiring to see young and old from so many diverse cultures working together on a common goal.

One Astoria Heights Park goer recently told me that the park is where she feels she has family. In her experience, coming from another country and leaving behind her family, living here in Astoria was isolating initially. The relationships she’s developed at our park have allowed her to discover a sense of family again.

This idea extends to the larger park culture now. We’re becoming a real community now. Sharing our ideas, talents and energies, celebrating our differences and our commonalities, we’re becoming part of the identity of our own neighborhood, and this is genuinely empowering. Look at the momentum we have, the changes we’re bringing about by joining forces together.

Seeing people of  all ages hauling cement bricks on It’s My Park day was really exciting and moving.  The train of cement bricks being passed from hand to hand to the  pick up truck was meant a great deal to me— everyone was in sync and it was truly magical to witness just how much can get done so easily and even joyfully when people work together.

Another great moment for me was painting together with Senator Gianaris and Councilman Costantinides.

The Friends of Astoria Heights Park is blessed to have tremendous grass roots momentum and meaningful support from our elected officials.

Astoria Heights Park is experiencing the first stage of a renaissance. The pacing of change can be challenging at times and the progress might seem slow, but there are genuine improvements happening after decades of stasis. We have real momentum now.

I remember growing up with easy access to beautiful outdoor spaces and my need to have that in my life and for my son motivates me.  My strong connection to nature pushes me to want a greener park for our community. I am grateful to be part of a community that has such strength, passion and creativity. We can truly make this and any park amazing with that kind of energy and commitment. I have met people in the park and through advocating for the park who I never thought I would meet.  The experience of getting to know others and spending time together, especially around a common goal so meaningful to me, has been very rewarding.  To witness all the volunteers, particularly the children getting involved, demonstrates that people are starting to take ownership of Astoria Heights Park, and this will make all of our progress in the park more sustainable over time.

I look forward to seeing everybody again and hopefully many new faces as well throughout the Summer and at It’s My Park Day this Fall.

And a special thank you to the Parks Department and local politicians who are helping us make a difference in our Park.

Photography by Adam W. Cohen.

It’s My Park Day Imminent, Reflections on the Importance of This Event

It’s My Park Day, scheduled for this May 18 from 9am to noon is fast approaching. It’s My Park Day is a borough-wide event co-sponsored with Partnership for Parks that is a call to action for our communities to celebrate our public spaces by showing up to demonstrate that we cherish them.

Preparing for our event this coming Sunday brought me back to our “It’s My Park Day” event on October 19th, 2013. That was our first event after successfully petitioning the Community Board to reprioritize our need for erosion control and gates. Our requests were heard and Astoria Heights Park moved from thirty-fifth place on the list of public parks to be addressed nearly to the top of the list. The Queens Parks Department Commissioner, Dorothy Lewandowski, took notice of our strong contingency, as well. In March of this year, following a hearing with the Queens Borough President, Melinda Katz, we learned that we moved even higher up in the New York City Parks Department’s agenda for renovations.

In so many ways, It’s My Park Day in October 2013 has produced positive effects and generated incredible momentum for Friends of Astoria Heights Park. We had over 125 volunteers that lovely Fall day, including children, adults and students from five area schools.

Park Day October 2013

It’s My Park Day October 2013 Volunteers

Senator Gianaris, Assemblywoman Simotas, Council candidates Lynne Serpe and Costa Constantinides were present to help us with chores and support our efforts. Today, Councilman Costa Constantinides is one of our most consistent supporters, helping to advocate for a better park and a cleaner Astoria. We have had several events since our very first It’s My Park Day, all part of an effort to invite our neighbors to become stakeholders in our park and to help us continue building momentum towards the kinds of improvements we all want to see.

It’s My Park Day is a powerful way of showing up and of advocating for the park. Every time we show up, we are communicating to our parks department and local community leaders that we take our park and our neighborhood seriously. We have already made change happen and we can and should continue to do so.
There is a saying that raising a child takes a village. I believe that applies as well to building a better public space for our children to enjoy.

Please join us for It’s My Park Day on May 18th. Bring your kids. Volunteering is fun, character-building, and essential to the improvement of our community. Come meet your neighbors and celebrate each other and what we can accomplish together. And if you feel inclined to get more involved with Friends of Astoria Heights Park, we would wholeheartedly welcome you onto our team of volunteers.

See you on Sunday!