ASTORIA — A popular playground at Astoria Heights Park will be closed for the next year as the city starts a nearly $6 million renovation of the green space — the first overhaul the park has seen in more than 20 years.
Officials and community leaders broke ground on the construction project Thursday, which will bring all new play equipment, a spray shower, sports courts, picnic tables and other features to the park, located on 46th Street between 30th and 31st avenues.
Neighborhood parents have been campaigning since 2013 to get the playground renovated, citing outdated equipment, cracked pavement and faulty drains that flood when it rains.
"How we got started three years ago was about wanting equity and wanting the same thing that other parks have," said Lynn Kennedy, who heads the group Friends of Astoria Heights Park.
"Just to have a safe and beautiful space that we could be in."
Funding for the park's $5.8 million overhaul came from several agencies and elected officials, including Councilman Costa Constantinides, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and the city's Community Parks Initiative, which targets smaller parks in densely populated neighborhoods.
"We care as much about these parks and playgrounds as we do about the big parks like Central Park and Prospect Park," Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver said Thursday.
Astoria Heights is one of 35 parks across the city getting improvements under the program. Designs were based on input from surveys that local residents were asked to fill out, according to Silver.
Design plans for the renovation of Astoria Heights Playground.
The changes include replacing the park's 20-by-40-foot mini-pool with a new spray shower featuring more than a dozen water jets. The pool's removal will free up space for other additions, officials said.
There will be three playground areas for children of different ages, including one with equipment for kids as old as 15, as well as new sports courts that can be used for tennis, volleyball or baseball.
The project will add a grass lawn and picnic tables along 46th Street, plant new trees, reconstruct the bathrooms and add a fitness area for adults, according to the plans.
"Our goal as we transform these parks is to make them multigenerational," Silver said. "We want people of all abilities and all ages to be able to use this space."
Construction is expected to take about a year, meaning the park will be closed this coming spring and summer.
But Kennedy said the Friends of Astoria Heights group plans to host events and activities at other locations during the closure, in order to "keep the community engaged" while the park is being worked on.
"We are creating some indoor options, and other things that will connect us," she said