Reflections in a New Year

Groundbreaking Ceremony for Astoria Heights Park

Groundbreaking Ceremony Astoria Heights Playground November 2016

What more could the Friends of Astoria Heights wish for in 2017? World peace would be amazing but perhaps a renovated playground will have to do?! After three years of playground advocacy, the playground is undergoing construction for a multi million dollar renovation.

Councilman Costantinides and Lynn Kennedy

Councilman Costantinides and Lynn Kennedy

Thanks to Councilman Costantinides, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, Queens Community Board 1, City Parks Foundation with Partnership for Parks, the Parks Department with the Queens Parks Commissioner, Dorothy Lewindowski and NYC Parks Department Commissioner, Mitchell Silver, for believing in a slew of park volunteers and providing the funding,  the park will see its long overdue renovation, which is scheduled to last about 1 year. Renovations to include a new spray area,  a new adult work out area, expanded and designated play areas for toddlers, ages 5-12 and 12-15, a renovated bathroom, improved lighting, updated water fountains, and many new plantings and seating areas.

The Friends’ group is grateful for this much needed change and upgrade. Change can bring some temporary disruption and feelings of loss and sentimentality for the old, however, also represents a response to what a community needs. Big Kid Swings!

Park lover in November 2016 shortly before park closure

Park lover in November 2016 shortly before park closure

So much programming has taken place in the park over the last few years, from Community potlucks, Winter Olympics, Book Swaps, Holiday caroling, park and tree care, painting projects, to an art installation and performance events, basketball and tennis lessons, Fitness and international dance, movies, composting, and arts and crafts. Thank you to all of the local businesses who helped to support programming by making contributions.

Polish Youth Dance Troupe performing in Ocotber 2016

Wianek Polish Youth Dance Troupe performing in October 2016

Why is all of this important? It makes the seemingly impossible, possible.  Hope is created where there was none and people’s capacity for caring moves center place rather than getting lost in the day to day.

William Bryant Highschool students paint garbage cans

William Bryant Highschool students paint garbage cans

The world can use all of the help it can get. Having teens come out to beautify a park space, Army Reserves haul mulch, or developmentally delayed adults garden,  are actions supporting a better community and ultimately a better planet.

IS 10 students participate in 'ITs My Park Day'

IS 10 and William Bryant HighSchool students participate in ‘ITs My Park Day’

Every year around December and January, folks reflect upon their lives, for what we are grateful, our gains, our losses, and our hopes. In each new year, we can hope and do something better for ourselves, our families, neighbors, communities, the world and the planet.

Lauren Biniaris with Army Reserves

Lauren Biniaris with Army Reserves

I am grateful for this small park in Astoria, Astoria Heights Playground, that reminds me every day of the many challenges, successes, changes, connections, and hopes we have and experience in our lives.  When I witness a better, safer, responsive and more beautiful neighborhood developing , I hope for that parallel existence to extend to the larger world. On the flip side, as much as we hope, change does not come without first acknowledging the issues or problems and then putting in the effort to make change happen.

Park attendees enjoy an event

Park attendees enjoy an event

With great appreciation for what we have already achieved, the Friends of Astoria Heights Park ploughs forward in 2017. Scheduled to be on the roster of events supported by our Councilman’s generous advocacy for renewed discretionary funding for 2017, we will be able to support more programming, including a Free Little Library, an Art installation with workshops for the community, a ‘Pedal for Parks’ event, toddler playdates and bigger kid events, an Astoria wide parks’ symposium, and a block party with youth poetry jam.

To volunteer, contribute programming to an event or donate,  contact:

To make a tax deductible donation,  send a check  with ‘Friends of Astoria Heights Park’ (in the Memo) to: City Parks Foundation  Partnership for Parks – 830 fifth Ave New York, NY 10065

FAHP Needs You: Volunteers wanted

volunteers from Park Day 2014

Volunteers from Park Day 2014

The Friends of Astoria Heights Park is a group that started 2 years ago  in August 2013 to advocate for a cleaner, safer and more inspiring park space.  We are a group of neighborhood volunteers that have come together to mobilize and improve our park.  We have done a lot in the last two years, with hosting at least 3 dozen events, and are the recipients of 9 grants to date. We also worked hard to help advcate for the much needed capital funding from the city and renovations that will begin within the next 1-2 years. Our Park got on the radar of our Parks Department, local politicans and Community Board 1, because members showed up to expresss their opinions, sign petitions or write letters.  The Friends group, and park users have played an active role in shaping how our park is transforming…for the better.

Erosion problems prior to 2014

Erosion problems prior to 2014

Two years ago, it was not uncommon to see a lot of glass in the park, or see flooding of the matting around the outdated play equipment, kids running out of the park or tripping on tree roots( of which are still there, but renovations will address).  A negative relationship seemed to exist between the public school neighboring the playground, or reports from parents about the ‘big kids’ doing inappropriate activities in the space.



We can proudly say that the Friends group has made a concerted effort at addressing these issues.  Especially, engaging youth in programming in the park, such as tree care, planting, painting, cleaning, and playing have helped to begin to reconnect the youth to their park and their helping to sustain it. Volunteers have done this with their own time,  muscle and willingness to commit.  Volunteers have hosted or helped to organize amazing events, such as a basketball clinic for younger children, book swaps, reading corner, potlucks, art events, tree care and gardening, olympics, fire safety, tennis and puppet shows to name a few.SpringFlingFeaturedImage

The Friends group is eager to have your help, skills and leadership. Volunteers are needed to sustain the Friends group over time. Without a fresh group of volunteers, the Friends group will have to cut back severely in its quantity of activity. Volunteers are needed to develop their ideas for an event or programming and begin to facilitate its really taking place. It could be a one time event or activity, or a multi week programming, or taking over something like compost.  The Friends group is willing to help support any individual or group of individuals in mentoring their special event, with providing assistance in planning and coordinating.  Making a committment to volunteer can seem like a big decision, especially with limited time, work,  children or other responsibilities demanding your attention. The Friends group members all have children, so we know what it is to make a committment beyond the necessary.  Choosing to be more involved in your local park can be a very rewarding experience for yourself, but more so for the others that benefit from your giving back.

Upcoming events:

 10/3,  9 am: Tree Care and more at Park Day.  To volunteer, please contact

10/24, 4pm: Please join The Friends in celebrating 2 years with a special Volunteer recognition ceremony, international potluck and music.  Bring a speical dish and/or volunteer at the food table.

10/29 7pm (location tba): an opportunity to get more information or to talk about your idea and get it going. Please RSVP to