LONG ISLAND CITY — Nothing makes a date more romantic than a beautiful setting.
And Gantry Plaza State Park, with its stunning views of Manhattan, breeze coming off the East River and comfortable chaise longues installed along the esplanade, provides just that — especially after hours.
Nearly every night, the park attracts couples from around the borough and the city, with the East River flowing by and the lights of the city blinking ahead.
Eric and Biva, who didn't want to give their last names, came to the park a couple of nights ago from East Elmhurst and were kissing passionately on one of the park’s piers.
“We just love it here,” Eric, 42, said.
“We could stay here all night long,” added Biva, 41, who came to the park for the first time and was amazed by the view.
The park closes at 10 p.m. but, since the curfew is not strictly enforced, many park-goers stay after hours.
Bill Bylewski, vice-president of Friends of Gantry Neighborhood Parks, a volunteer group that helps keep the area clean, said the park was in many ways designed to be romantic.
“A lot of these seats along the esplanade were designed in such way that two people can cuddle up on them,” Bylewski said.
“The best time to come is right around dusk and sunset. The sun sets behind the buildings of Manhattan, the sky turns purple and it cools off," he added. "We have a guy selling ice cream and sometimes a waffle truck comes and it’s really a great place to be.”
The park, which opened more than a decade ago, started to draw more people in 2009, when an expansion almost doubled its size. At that time, Bylewski said, a huge new lawn was added, as well as a playground and the chaise longues.
Shohan Pervaze, a medical student who has lived in the area since 2000, said the park had indeed become a great destination. Recently, he took his girlfriend, Fatima Sharmin, for an evening walk there.
As they strolled along the waterfront, Sharmin, an English teacher, said she “loves the stunning view and the breeze.”
Joe Conley, chairman of Community Board 2, said the park has “the million dollar view of Manhattan. And we are only 800 yards from the United Nations building.”
For this reason, he said, the park has also drawn tourists, who are visiting the area in increasing numbers.
Marta, 27, who came to the park with Brian, 30, of Ridgewood, thought it would be great if the hours were extended until midnight.
“It’s very relaxing here,” said Marta, who, like Brian, declined to give her last name. “You just can’t stop looking at the river.”
Bylewski, too, said it would be nice if park hours were extended until midnight, the time when “the lights of Manhattan go off.”
Lack of funding, however, is a limiting factor, he admitted, so the ten o'clock closing seems like a reasonable compromise.
Dan Keefe, a spokesman for the state Parks Department, said that all state parks have closing times.
“It’s a standard practice," he noted.
Conley, meanwhile, issued a reminder that despite the parks' romantic allure, it “is a residential community.”
Still, Conley noted that since because Gantry Plaza is operated by the state, it offers more park time than its counterparts maintained by the city Parks Department, which close at dusk.
“So as the daylight hours get shorter," he said, "the parks hours get shorter.”