The Astoria Park Alliance was founded in 2007 with the mission to beautify, enhance, and encourage greater community involvement in Astoria Park.
In the Spring of 2012, the group wanted to help find better uses for a running track inner green in the park that had turned into a dustbowl, due to casual use by local athletes for playing soccer and other sports. When the Queens Borough Parks Commissioner learned of their plans, she asked if they could also help gather ideas for rehabilitating an area a short distance away, underneath the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, which also had potential for a capital project. The group liked the idea and agreed to do visioning for both spaces.
The group’s two leaders began to brainstorm how to best collect input from their diverse Astoria neighborhood, which is notable for being home to 160 spoken languages ranging from Brazilian Portuguese and Bulgarian to Spanish and Serbian, just to name a few.
The group met with their local Community Board and the Parks Committee to introduce People Make Parks, explain their plans, respond to questions and concerns, and ultimately gain buy-in for the project. They explained the process in detail in order to highlight the importance of gathering input from the community.
After exploring the PMP tools page, they decided to adapt the Story Map and Walking Tour activities into idea generators for the spaces. In the Story Map exercise, they asked people to recount their favorite memories of the space, and to explain both their current use and their vision for an improved track area. This activity sparked creative ideas from the community and allowed residents to share their feelings about the space.
To ensure they reached the community’s many ethnic and language groups, they asked local cultural and civic organizations to help them translate materials into a number of languages.
Astoria Park Alliance planned their visioning event to coincide with It’s My Park Day. However, with the tables in the center of the track on a hot and sunny day, the volunteers had to disperse to the park’s edges to encourage people to give feedback. A challenge of input gathering is creatively engaging people and sparking their curiosity so that they want to contribute!
Children and teens are another important group that the Astoria Park Alliance wants to engage. Since surveys are not always appropriate for this age group, the group offered hands-on activities using colorful markers, sparkles, stickers, and other materials to pique their curiosity. Together, members of the community generated creative and interesting ideas to transform the space.
The group is currently in the process of introducing themselves and their ideas to the new Council person, and they will continue to rally support and raise funds for the park improvements. During this time, the group has kept the community engaged in the park by hosting events, clean-up days, and other programs.