BY FRANCO FINO
The city is proposing a new facility along the banks of Newtown Creek in Maspeth to clean up the notoriously polluted creek, and provide more green space in an area that desperately needs it.
Last month, Eric Landau, the Department of Environmental Protection’s associate commissioner of public affairs, appeared before the Subcommittee of Landmarks, Public Siting, and Maritime Uses to propose the project of constructing an aeration facility near the water’s edge at 58-26 47 St.
The goal of the proposed facility is to raise oxygen levels in the water and promote the growth of wildlife. The DEP has noted that the facility construction will generate approximately 1.5 acres of open space, which Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), Borough President Melinda Katz, and Community Board 5 have expressed interest in building an athletic field for the public.
“While it is very important to build this aeration facility for Newtown Creek, it is also important our community take advantage of green space for athletics,” Crowley said. “In Maspeth, there is a high volume of trucks traveling through the streets. It also has fewer city parks. This lack of green space plus its proximity to the LIE both lead to a higher rate of obesity and asthma compared to neighboring communities.”
Frontera Park at 69th Street and the Queens-Midtown Expressway, Principle Park at Maurice and 54th avenues, and the Metropolitan Oval, a playing field for soccer players, are three of the few public areas that are located in Maspeth. A move to repurpose the former site of St. Saviour’s Church on Rust Street into a park several years ago failed when the city couldn’t raise enough money to purchase the land from developers.
Landau said the DEP would begin immediate discussions with some of Maspeth’s local sports organizations about a Memorandum of Understanding concerning the possible athletic field. Any sports organizations that use the facility will likely be responsible for the capitol cost and maintenance of the field, as per a potential MOU.
“Understanding that the space may be needed in the future to meet state and federal water quality requirements, DEP is committed to working with the Council and community organizations that are willing to build and maintain the space for athletic purposes, as we have with a soccer league in Manhattan near our North River Waste Water Treatment Plant,” said Associate Commissioner Eric Landau.
He added that Crowley would take the initiative to identify a local athletic league that will use the site.
According to Landau, the DEP will know whether or not they will need to make usage of the land by 2021. As a result of the DEP’s future ambitions, a temporary halt of the field from sports organizations and the community may possibly appear in the MOU as well.
“Given the neighborhood conditions, I believe it is in the best interests of the community to make full use of this site for as long a period of time as possible,” Crowley said.
According to a Crowley spokeswoman, construction on the facility may start in January and be completed by April 2018.