The Parks Department has been working for months to give Charybdis Playground in Astoria Park a modern face lift. Those renovations were completed this week, an occasion marked by politicians and locals with a special ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Astoria Park was designated as an “Anchor Park” by the de Blasio administration in 2016 for its critical importance to the Western Queens community. Since then, the Park’s playground — Charybdis Playground — has been revitalized with upgraded amenities including new play equipment, a children’s water play area, asphalt pathways, and new plantings. The project was funded with $9.4 million from the Mayor’s office and $3 million from former City Council Member Costa Constantinides.
“For more than a century, Astoria Park has been an anchor park,” explained New York City Acting Parks Commissioner Margaret Nelson ahead of Wednesday’s ribbon cutting. “Since it’s development in 1913, families from Western Queens have come to this waterfront gem for a variety of activities.”
In addition to installing new equipment, the Charybdis Playground renovation project opened park space that was previously only accessible through the pool area (which only stays open in the summer) for year-long use. More equipment is slated to be installed in this section of the playground later this fall.
The playground renovation represents the second phase of the Anchor Parks project at Astoria Park. Previously the City funded and oversaw the construction of a new track and field facility around the park.
Ahead of the ribbon-cutting, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards delivered comments about the importance of parks and the specific cultural importance of Astoria Park.
“Since 1997, this space has been named Charybdis playground,” he said. “A Charybdis is a sea monster from Greek mythology who was said to occupy the turbulent waters of the Strait of Messina between Sicily and Southern Italy. Those turbulent waters are not unlike the turbulent waters of the nearby Hell Gate Channel in the nearby East River, which inspired then Parks Commissioner Henry Stern to give this playground the name.”
The Borough President continued: “Yet although this park is named after a scary sea monster, the reality is that the newly reconstructed Charybdis Playground is a truly safe and fun space that will serve the people of Astoria for decades to come.”
Richards specifically congratulated former Astoria City Council Member Costa Constantinides, who secured millions of dollars in funding for the Anchor Park projects during his tenure. Constantinides stepped down from office earlier this year but has retained a vital role in the community as Chief Executive Officer of the Variety Boys & Girls Club of Queens, a local nonprofit dedicated to serving disadvantaged children.
“I used to take my son here and we used to have to wait for the swings because there was a line,” Constantinides said. “Even though we loved the playground, it had to grow into a larger space. Now we can enjoy this space, our kids can enjoy it, and eventually our kids’ kids will too.”
After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Constantinides spoke to our paper about the legacy he hopes to leave behind in his former district with this newly finished playground renovation.
“This park is the jewel in Western Queens’ crown, and this expansion and this renovation provided the next generation of people here in Western Queens the opportunity to play and enjoy,” Constantinides explained. “To use a park metaphor, we planted this seed during my tenure and to see it grow into a full tree makes this a great day.”
The Anchor Parks initiative has supplied funding to one park in each of the five boroughs. In addition to Astoria Park in Queens, the initiative has supported projects in Betsy Head Park in Brooklyn, Highbridge Park in Manhattan, St. Mary’s Park in the Bronx, and Freshkills Park on Staten Island. More than 750,000 New Yorkers live within walking distance of the five Anchor Parks.
Wednesday’s ribbon-cutting event was part of the Queens edition of City Hall in Your Borough, a week-long initiative focused on celebrating and announcing new projects in the City’s outer boroughs. In addition to Astoria Park, Queens politicians celebrated new funding for projects at the Queens Farm, Woodhaven Library, and a children’s museum at the Queens Museum.