Gantry Park Volunteer Group May Expand to Include Hunters Point South Park

By Jeanmarie Evelly on March 7, 2014 8:44am 

 The new waterfront park at Hunters Point South includes a "rail garden," with plants and flowers growing around a set of train tracks.
The new waterfront park at Hunters Point South includes a "rail garden," with plants and flowers growing around a set of train tracks.
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DNAinfo/Jeanmarie Evelly

HUNTERS POINT — Longtime Long Island City volunteer group Friends of Gantry Neighborhood Parks may expand to create an umbrella organization that would include the new Hunters Point South Park, organizers said.

President Bill Bylewski said it seems like a "natural expansion" to restructure the 15-year-old neighborhood group to include the new park, which opened in late August on the Long Island City waterfront just south of Gantry Plaza State Park.

Hunters Point South Park is part of the city's developing Hunters Point South project.

Frank Raffaele — owner of the Long Island City cafe Coffeed who is set to open a concession in the park called LIC Landing — had been looking to launch a stewardship group for the green space, which is how the idea of a unified neighborhood parks group first surfaced, Bylewski said.

"This is going to take work on the part of the whole community to take care of our wonderful waterfront resources," he said. "We are so lucky that we have this in our front yard."

The details of the proposed group still need to be agreed upon, and discussions will start at a community meeting this Friday.

But Bylewski said one idea would for an umbrella organization to be called the Hunters Point Parks Conservancy, under which two park-specific divisions would operate: Friends of Gantry Park and Friends of Hunters Point South Park.

The unified group would advocate for both parks on behalf of the community, Bylewski said, and would likely focus on things like fundraising, membership and community outreach.

The two parks are run by different government agencies — Gantry is a state park while Hunters Point South is run by the city — and so would have their own specific agendas, which the separate "Friends Of" groups would work towards.

Friends of Gantry Park, which celebrated its 15th anniversary this fall, has traditionally focused on things like weeding, mulching and caring for the park's plants, as well as pruning trees around Hunters Point.

Bylewski said the meeting on Friday will begin conversations on how a re-structured organization would work, including drafting a joint mission statement and forming possible committees.

"We're looking at everything with new eyes right now," he said.

Friday's meeting is open to the public and will take place at Coffeed, at 37-18 Northern Blvd., starting at 6:30 p.m. and is open to "anyone who is interested in caring for our waterfront," Bylewski said.

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