While there has been much discussion about how to spend the money to upgrade the infrastructure, more can be said about making the park the centerpiece of a master plan that would put it in the same league as Central Park.
For decades, residents and businesses have been waiting for Astoria and Long Island City to be on the radar for alternatives to residential Manhattan.
We have witnessed the recent transformation of the area into the best place in New York City to live. Now’s the time to renovate the park with the neighborhood's new standing in mind.
Community visioning meetings about Astoria Park have elicited a variety of specific “wish list” items.
One common request is for a permanent concession stand that would sell hot chocolate in the winter and ice cream in the summer.
A concession stand has limited potential, but a 50-seat coffee shop/bakery designed by a leading architect will become a major attraction.
The Astoria Park Bake Shop, our version of Tavern on the Green, would be a five-star glittering greenhouse set amid towering trees.
It would serve breakfast, lunch and dinner 365 days a year from a modestly priced menu created by a celebrity chef, and serve as a venue for weddings and other formal events.
It would generate foot traffic to the mom-and-pop businesses on Ditmars Boulevard, and would be an asset if the plan to convert the diving pool into an event space is ever realized.
And the beauty of it is that it would not alter the park’s footprint. It could be erected in the parking lot or sited on the concrete deck above the swimming pool.
This is not an expensive proposition; prospective vendors would submit design/build proposals, leaving the $30 million untouched.
A design competition, similar to the one run for Governor’s Island, would give Astoria residents voting rights and bring national and international publicity to the area.
The Astoria Park Bake Shop would become not only the crown jewel of the park, but also would be the catalyst for other commerce.
The proposed Brooklyn-Queens Connector will more than likely be routed to stop at the park, making the 21st Street corridor and nearby Welling Court area prime spots for artist boutiques and other hip shops.
Thus, a visit to Astoria Park becomes a fun-and-sun day trip.
A big-picture version of Astoria Park and the surrounding area requires not only good ideas, but great planning.
This is a chance for the community to cull proposals from major architects to create a vision that will carry Astoria Park well into its second century.