Work to revitalize Queens’ Hallets Cove waterfront set to begin this winter

Photo Courtesy of Councilman Costa Constantinides’ Office

After years of advocacy from the community and local elected officials, work will finally begin early next year to revitalize the Hallets Cove waterfront.

Councilman Costa Constantinides and the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) on Monday, Oct. 26, announced the highly anticipated investment, which will both improve the quality of life of the NYCHA Astoria Houses as well as connect western Queens residents with the East River. A specific start date is still in the works, but it is set to begin in the coming months, weather permitting.

“The days of Hallets Cove as a crumbling dumping ground are over,” said Constantinides. “Thanks to our partnership with the EDC, the Queens Borough President, the Mayor’s Office, and the surrounding community, we will make good on a promise to reimagine this waterfront by restoring its ecology. I’m so excited we can get back to work and realize this vision for western Queens.”

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) recently released the funds to commence habitat restoration in early 2021.

Construction crews will finally remove debris and trash, restore the riverbank’s ecology, and take down a decaying pier known as the “radio tower.”

Built almost 70 years ago but long closed to the public due to its rotting condition, the radio tower embodies how physically and emotionally cut off western Queens residents are from their side of the East River.

Marie Torniali, chair of Community Board 1, thanked the elected officials involved for beginning the much-needed clean up.

“The dilapidated ‘radio tower’ pier and the inevitable dumping at that location has been a blight on the community for years,” said Torniali. “Community Board 1 is excited to learn that funds have been released to cure this condition that will ultimately revitalize the waterfront and restore the wetlands and grateful to Council Member Constantinides and former Borough President Katz for the funding and vision to achieve a  waterfront of which we can all be proud.”

Hallets Cove existing conditions diagram (Photo courtesy of Councilman Costa Constantinides’ Office)

Constantinides told QNS the radio tower, as well as the littering, near Vernon Boulevard and 30th Road at Hallets Cove has been an eyesore for the nearby Astoria Houses community.

“When I came into office, I walked the grounds with Mrs. [Claudia] Coger. She pointed it out to me and it hasn’t change,” he said. “It’s just been a symbol of how Astoria Houses has been continually forgotten. This is more than just restoring the wetlands and removing the dock — this signals that we’re not going to leave broken down infrastructure in their backyard. It’s time to treat them with the respect they deserve.”

Coger, president of the Astoria Houses Residents Association, thanked Constantinides for seeing through this promise and investing in the community.

“The residents at the Astoria Houses and the entire north western Queens neighborhood are excited to see this project get off the ground,” said Coger. “As a lifelong Astoria Houses resident and a lover of the outdoors, I’m especially grateful to see these beginning stages of our waterfront’s revival and restoration. This will ensure that many future generations will be able to access, interact, learn from, and appreciate the beauty of our natural landscape.”

Constantinides has attempted to build a coalition around cleaning up the cove since he took office in 2014. Starting in 2015, his office has allocated $1 million to the revitalization, while former Borough President Melinda Katz invested another $3 million.

The work that will begin after today’s announcement will revitalize the waterfront and restore its natural conditions. For years, residents have fought to end the illegal dumping in the area.

“Creating a healthier, fairer, and stronger New York City are the key tenets of our long-term recovery,” said James Patchett, president and CEO of the EDC. “Investments like these, which revitalize our communities are critical to advancing that vision forward. We are proud to be part of an effort that is delivering on a neighborhood vision and making our city a better place for all New Yorkers.”

Hallets Cove restoration diagram (Photo Courtesy of Councilman Costa Constantinides’ Office)

This effort has come in tandem with historic progress to improve the East River, which is the healthiest it’s been since the Civil War, according to a 2017 report by New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection.

Constantinides believes this clean up, coupled with the recent announcement of a permanent BioBus, a mobile science education non-profit, coming to Astoria Houses will give community members better access to their environment.

Richard Khuzami, president of the Old Astoria Neighborhood Association, said the new project adds on to the long-fought for improvements in Astoria.

“Old Astoria, especially Hallets Cove, is in the midst of a hard fought renaissance, integrating it with the rest of NYC,” said Khuzami. “With the advent of the NYC Ferry Landing, the recent stepped up street cleaning by the NYC Department of Sanitation, efforts like the removal of the Radio Tower and corresponding clean-up of the Cove, and Cultural Institutions such as Socrates Sculpture Park and Noguchi Museum, the Western Queens Waterfront is now becoming a destination of choice for all New Yorkers. And the residents of Old Astoria are now easily accessing all that our great city has to offer.”

This story first appeared on our sister publication qns.com.