As parents, we are the greatest advocates for our children. When we see something in our community that we want to improve for our children, we can take action and contact our local representatives to affect change.
So many of the parks in Queens are falling apart, and they are littered with dangerous debris. They cannot be locked at night, and signs telling people to leave the park at a certain time with no other enforcement of the law does not work. Neighborhood parks are supposed to be safe, engaging places for children of all ages, and unfortunately much of our time is spent hovering over our kids making sure they aren’t picking up shards of glass, putting deflated water balloons in their mouths, or worse. If you are concerned about the condition of your community park, there are steps you can take to fix it.
To see a beautiful example of parents working together with their local government to improve their community park, look no further than Elmhurst Park. This park is located at the former site of two gas tanks that were nothing more than an eye-sore. Keyspan, who owned the space, sold the land to the city, which turned it into a public open space complete with rich, green lawns, jogging paths, sculptures, comfort stations, and more than 620 trees. The playground was created by concerned parents in the community who wanted their children to have a wonderful area to play in and explore. The residents also volunteer to make sure the park is kept clean, and there are signs posted if more volunteers are needed. The playground offers state-of-the-art equipment, such as stationary bikes that generate electricity to light a nearby column. Most of the equipment is appropriate for children 4 or 5 and older, but even younger kids will have a great time. For more information on the park, please check out Elmhurst Park.
So how can you, like the Elmhurst parents, get your neighborhood park improved? The first step is to contact Parks Information for Queens: (718) 520-5900. Explain that you would like the number for the Park Manager for your area, i.e. Astoria, Jackson Heights, etc. This is the person you need to talk to about any minor concerns you have about a specific park, such as keeping the park clean. You should to contact the Public Affairs Department of your local police precinct if some of the problems you have involve safety issues (i.e. broken glass, drugs, etc.) If you would like major renovations done, you need to speak to the District Manager of your community board. Often they are aware of the problems at your park, and they may have started the process of having your park improved, but money and time are major factors. You can help your cause by bringing a petition to your community board’s meeting with as many names as possible representing the diversity of your community. If there are exceptionally troubling things you find at your park, take pictures and include them with your petition.
While the meeting about budgets does not happen until September, there are budget consultations coming up soon, so the quicker take action, the better. Contact information for your community board, as well as when and where it meets, can be found at: http://www.queensbp.org/content_web/CB/cb_listing.shtml. Your Council Member is also a good resource, and getting their support is key. You need to send him or her an official letter requesting your park be considered for “capital funding.” Include what changes you would like to have implemented at your park, and attach a copy of your petition. Find your representative on the City Council at: http://council.nyc.gov/html/members/members.shtml. Of course your community board and Council Member are wonderful resources for any other concerns you might have about your neighborhood. What better way to have your children learn about the workings of their local government, than to see you actively trying to make improvements in your community?
By: Megan Ross