Astoria Park stood as a fine example of what a community can accomplish when people work together. Under cloudy skies and the occasional drizzle that turned to rain by early afternoon, groups of volunteers spruced up the park during the Astoria Park Alliance’s (APA) Earth Day Shore Fest Spring Kickoff. Along with the APA’s officers and loyal volunteers, over 125 people showed up to contribute their time and effort, including groups from New York Cares and Big Reuse/NYC Compost Project.
Morning volunteers out early picked up debris, raked leaves, weeded and planted flowers in the park’s gardens. Later, they moved down to the East River for a shoreline cleanup, disposing of hundreds of pounds of plastics, glass and miscellaneous flotsam that had washed up along the Hell Gate.
Jillian Gall, a horticulturist with APA, leads a group of NY Cares volunteers to their work site in Astoria Park.
Shore Boulevard was closed to traffic for the day, and in the afternoon the organizers set up various booths with ecologically oriented information, activities and entertainment for all ages. A steady rain didn’t seem to dim the enthusiasm of the hundreds of visitors and volunteers who milled around the exhibits set up by Astor Apiary, Salt Tree Arts, Citi Bike and others. The Band of New York provided live music in a range of styles from the stage installed for the occasion.
For the younger set, APA offered a number of child-friendly games, including recycling relay races, a scavenger hunt and a very popular giant bubble-blowing station. To the delight of the crowd, the Vipers, a step dance team from the Variety Boys and Girls Club of Queens, performed a high-energy, precision dance routine.
Council Member Costa Constantinides throws the first ball to open up Astoria Park’s newly refurbished bocce ball court. His team later scored a decisive victory in the ceremonial first game.
Mid-afternoon, APA Chair Martha Lopez- Gilpin took the stage to thank organizers and volunteers for all the hard work they had put in, with a special thanks to the event’s organizers, Christina Sidoti and Lisa Crescenzo. She then introduced Council Member Costa Costantinides, whose strong support for Astoria Park has been important in achieving the park’s upcoming $30 million upgrade. Constantinides reiterated his support for Earth Day, congratulated the APA on its dedication to the Park, and encouraged attendees to follow APA’s example.
Lopez-Gilpin, assisted by Vice Chair Anthony Liberatosciolo, presented Certificates of Recognition to Daniel Berrios and Emidio Biasella, “for outstanding community service and dedication to rebuilding the Astoria Park Bocce Court.” The crowd then moved to the recently refurbished Bocce Ball Court at the base of the Great Lawn, where Council Member Costa Constantinides, assisted by Lopez-Gilpin and other honorees, cut the ribbon to officially reopen the court. Constantinides was given the honor of throwing out the ceremonial first bocce ball.
Attendees marveling at the giant bubbles floating up towards the Hell Gate Bridge.
The day concluded with a puppet show by Wonder Sparks Puppet Show.
The Astoria Park Alliance exists to ensure the conservation and sustainability of Astoria Park for all New Yorkers by empowering public partnerships. Find out more about APA, its work and its volunteer opportunities at www.astoriaparkalliance.org/. For more information on the park itself, check out www.nycgovparks.org/parks/astoria-park.