Dec. 18, 2023 Staff Report
The Hunters Point Parks Conservancy had its most successful year since its founding in 1998 and is looking for financial support to ensure that it continues to thrive.
The non-profit, which helps maintain Long Island City’s waterfront parks and organizes dozens of events, achieved many milestones in 2023. Its volunteer gardeners removed nearly 2,000 bags of weeds from the parks this year, a record; the annual LIC Waterfront 5K saw more than 1,600 runners participate, the most ever; while it organized 113 free programs, the conservancy’s biggest number to date.
The organization also saw the October opening of the new Queens Landing Boathouse and Environmental Center at 57-28 2nd St., located next to Hunter’s Point South Park, that it helps oversee.
The HPPC is in the middle of its annual fundraising campaign to support programs and services in 2024. So far, it is just under halfway to its $15,000 goal, with two weeks left. HPPC is urging more people to donate before the year’s end. To donate, please click here.
Rob Basch, president of HPPC, said “2023 was a record year for the Conservancy in so many ways and we are busy planning for 2024. Long Island City continues to be one of the fastest growing communities in the country and with our community’s help we will continue to make the LIC Waterfront a special place for all.”
HPPC Executive Director Jessica Sechrist said that the organization wants to continue to expand its offerings, particularly as the neighborhood grows. It aims to add programs and build a connection to the waterfront through the boathouse.
“Donations to HPPC go directly to supporting our community offerings, helping us advocate for the parks, run over 100 free programs, create events that bring the community together, and help us purchase park fixtures and plants to keep Hunter’s Point South Park and Gantry Plaza State Park beautiful and inviting even as they see an ever-increasing number of visitors,” Sechrist said.
The 113 programs that ran this year included five free movie nights that collectively saw more than 4,900 attendees, 40 days of free summer kids programming attended by 3,792 participants, and 46 free fitness classes that reached 4,098 participants.
The organization ran two successful holiday events at Ottomanelli’s by the Water, the park’s concessionaire, including a tree lighting event and its first ever Halloween on the Waterfront that was attended by over 1,500 people.
The parks are filled with native plants that support local pollinators, birds, and insects, and are designed for climate resiliency, but require volunteer support to help combat invasive weeds. HPPC holds twice-weekly volunteer groups for the community and brings in corporate groups to help weed and maintain the parks.
More than 1,100 people volunteered at gardening days, removing weeds, planting over 600 plants, and adding 20,000 bulbs at the annual LIC Bulbfest on Nov. 4. The alliums, tulips, and daffodils will bloom in the spring, and this year’s huge event brings the total number of bulbs planted by the group to over 90,000 since the first Bulbfest in 2015.
In addition to activating and stewarding the parks, the organization invested in art and fixtures to make them more welcoming. HPPC partnered with Photoville to install 4 environmental-themed cubes in Hunter’s Point South Park that will be on display through the end of the year, and purchased picnic tables, umbrellas, and garbage cans for Gantry Plaza State Park to help meet the needs of the increased number of visitors.
HPPC’s new boathouse and environmental center, which officially opened on Oct. 25 in partnership with Newtown Creek Alliance and the North Brooklyn Community Boathouse after 4 years planning, has already welcomed over 200 visitors to public environmental programs, brought in 400 school students as part of field trips to learn about marine ecology and climate change, and hosted two public paddle events where 185 people were able to take boats onto Newtown Creek, many of whom had never been on the water before.
For those who would like to donate to HPPC, please click here.