According to Willis Elkins, program manager at Newtown Creek Alliance, the lot on 47th Street between 58th Road and Grand Avenue was originally slated to have public access.
The city is building an aeration facility on site, which is used to mechanically elevate the oxygen levels of the water in Newtown Creek. But the rest of the lot was supposed to lead to the waterfront.
Elkins said the mayor’s office “revoked” the plan with an override.
“There had been a previous verbal commitment to create shoreline access in the coming years. There had also been interest from other soccer clubs to build out a soccer field on the facility,” he said. “Because it’s a city-owned parcel, there’s a greater possibility of utilizing it for public benefit.”
Elkins also raised concerns about the removal of shoreline vegetation during construction of the aeration building. He said he was still waiting to hear on plans to replant the area.
As an organization, the Newtown Creek Alliance is interested in finding more pathways for people to access the waterway, Elkins said. Access is increasingly important as the cleanup efforts, including remediation from the Superfund process, are underway.
“The water quality has been better in the creek than in the past 100 years,” he said, “with more improvements coming in the [next] decade.”
Elkins found similarities between this site in Maspeth and the Newtown Creek nature walk in Greenpoint. In both cases, city agencies expressed concerns about access to a polluted waterbody in an industrial area.
But the nature walk has been a “successful space” on the other side of the creek, Elkins said.
“The entire Queens shoreline of Newtown Creek has had zero investment from the city and state in public access,” he said.
A DEP spokesman confirmed that the construction of the aeration facility is underway. The agency is also working with a youth soccer group on the use of the open space, and updating the Newtown Creek Alliance on all of its plans.