On Saturday, members of the Astoria Park Alliance, Community Board 1, the Old Astoria Neighborhood Association and the Eleftheria Pancyprian youth soccer club gathered to mark the beginning of construction.
The first phase of the project, which is expected to be complete by spring 2020, will bring a new synthetic turf soccer field and an eight-lane track to the park. Other amenities include new bleachers, drinking fountains, a plaza near the fieldhouse and adult fitness equipment.
The Parks Department will also add new greenery, including a rain garden and other erosion control measures.
The second phase, which includes revamping Charybdis Playground, the spray shower and comfort station, will also be done by summer 2020.
Phytos Neophytou, director of coaching for Eleftheria Pancyprian, said the new soccer field means everything for the kids in his program.
“We don’t have any soccer fields,” he said. “We always go and we rent places away from our community.”
The youth soccer club, which has been around since 1981, is based in Astoria, so the teams will finally have a field to call their own.
Neophytou said the sport has grown tremendously in the past few years. Enrollment for their club has been growing.
“Everybody knows it’s the new thing in town,” he said. “Hopefully, we’re going to have more.”
Even Borough President Melinda Katz, who joined the celebration, said her son loves soccer, though she said she wanted him to play baseball.
“I find that all over the borough, we are getting requests for soccer fields,” she said. “I’m excited that this will be at the forefront in Astoria Park.”
Community Board 1 District Manager Florence Koulouris added that not only is soccer good for families, but the renovated track will provide many opportunities for young people in the neighborhood.
“This field will mean so much more to our community,” she said. “It’ll provide health and education.”
Astoria Park was one of five sites chosen as part of the mayor’s Anchor Parks Initiative, which will invest $150 million in total in the five boroughs. The other anchor parks are Highbridge Park in Manhattan, Betsy Head Park in Brooklyn, St. Mary’s Park in the Bronx, and Freshkills Park in Staten Island.
All of the renovated anchor parks are set to reopen in 2020, except Freshkills Park, which will be remade by 2022.
Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver said the community offered significant input on the Astoria Park revamp. In fact, the visioning session for the project was the “largest public meeting we had in the city.”
“There were lines around the corner,” Silver said.
Councilman Costa Constantinides added that over the last five years, half of the parks in his district have been upgraded or given funding. Playgrounds like Van Alst, Astoria Heights and Raimonda have all been renovated.
The councilman said one issue he kept hearing was that people played soccer in places they weren’t supposed to, and that other park users feared getting hit with the ball. This renovation will change that, he said.
“This is going to be a transformation,” Constantinides added. “As we pass the torch from one generation to the next, we know we’re leaving Astoria a better place than when we found it.”