November 6, 2003-
Basin from Hamilton Beach Park sits Frank Charles Memorial Park, where pedestrians and bicyclists use the newly-repaved perimeter walkway to enjoy the park. Thanks to S.T.A.R.S., Hamilton Beach Park may soon have a walkway of its own.
Frances Scarantino, the president of Striving To Achieve and Reach Success, is working with a citywide parks advocacy group to design a walkway along the perimeter of the park. The Manhattan-based New Yorkers for Parks has offered the services of its landscape design intern to create a blueprint for a proposed walkway. The terrain of the park, which includes a large field, swampland and a beach, makes a conventional walking path difficult.
The intern is Sari Hoy, a recent graduate of the Conway School of Landscape in Massachusetts. She will conduct community workshops and create the renderings for the proposed walkway by mid-December. This is the first time New Yorkers for Parks will be working in a national park.
Once the design is finished, Scarantino will seek funding for the project from Gateway National Park and Congressman Gregory Meeks’ office. In 1998, Congressman Anthony Weiner appropriated $1 million for both Charles and Hamilton Beach Parks.
“This is something the people of Hamilton Beach have been involved with for a long time. Now, people have to go over the bridge to get to a park with a walking path. This could be a great opportunity for people of the area. With its ecology, the park is like an open classroom,” Scarantino said.
John Bluemke, the president of the New Hamilton Beach Civic Association, said the nearly 350 children in the neighborhood and their families are forced to go to Charles Park to enjoy a stroll. “We’re trying to get Hamilton Beach Park to be a nice usable park. In the last two years, we’ve gotten funding from the Howard Beach Civic Forum, and it’s still not enough. Hopefully we can get this done.”
John Fazio lives in Hamilton Beach and was one of the driving forces behind the path. He feels the park has been neglected, even as Charles Park has received improvements. Over 80 percent of Weiner’s grant went to improvements in Charles Park.
In 2001, Hamilton Beach residents agreed on a $150,000 plan to build a Little League field, basketball court and handball court and create a traffic circle near the park’s entrance as part of Weiner’s grant. “They said they spent $150,000, but I don’t see it. We got the very short end of the stick. I know the more people that use it, the better it would be taken care of,” Fazio said.
Later that year, Scarantino managed to raise $40,000 from a variety of sources, including the playground organization KaBOOM! She used the money to buy a slide and other playground equipment, which volunteers from the Port Authority, Hamilton Beach, Howard Beach and West Hamilton Beach Fire Departments installed at the park.
Councilman Joseph Addabbo Jr., who is chairman of the City Council’s Parks Committee, praised Scarantino’s recent efforts. “I am very excited about New Yorkers for Parks. They have done some great work in our city parks and I look forward to seeing the outcome of this project,” he said.
Scarantino recently received a $2,000 Russell Astor grant for her community work. She was nominated by Addabbo. Though she could have kept the money, she donated it to S.T.A.R.S.