The restoration of Hallets Cove included the removal of litter, the cleaning of the water, the planting of trees and the fortification of the shoreline. Eagle photo by Jacob Kaye
A waterfront clean-up nearly a decade in the making is almost complete, local officials announced Wednesday.
Hallets Cove, a small inlet next to the Astoria Houses, underwent an approximately seven-month clean-up and restoration effort that officials said is expected to be completed in full by the end of the summer. While the clean-up was completed on time, the project had been gaining steam and losing it for the past seven years.
The cove was once home to hundreds of pounds of litter, a crumbling shoreline and a toppled radio tower – which hadn’t been used since the late 1960s – rusting into the water. On Wednesday, the water was clear, the shoreline connected to the sidewalk showed signs of being recently paved and the radio tower had long been removed to live a second life as pieces of scrap metal.
“What a difference,” said Queens Borough President Donovan Richards. “We're here to celebrate making the Astoria waterfront healthy and beautiful, and for too long, this beautiful piece of waterfront has been anything but that.”
The idea for the waterfront clean-up began in 2015, after former City Councilmember Costa Constantinides began attempting to raise funds for the project. Over the years, funds were collected and plans presented and scrapped.
The $5 million restoration was paid for in pieces – $3 million was allocated by former Borough President Melinda Katz’s office in 2016 and 2017 and Constantinides and the mayor’s office each allocated $1 million in funding toward the project last year.
In 2017, the city’s Economic Development Corporation presented plans to bring a floating dock to the cove. The plans outlined opportunities for kayaking and a park, similar to what was built a few miles away at Hunter’s Point Park.
But those plans were pushed aside a few years later when NYC Ferry service came to the area, making kayaking in the waters unsafe, officials said.
The restoration celebrated by officials on Wednesday began in November.
From left to right: EDC President Andrew Kimball, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, City Councilmember Tiffany Cabán, Astoria Houses tenant leader Claudia Coger and Queens Community Board 1 District Manager Florence Koulouris cut the ribbon on the restored Hallets Cove. Eagle photo by Jacob Kaye
Though the shoreline along Vernon Boulevard is complete, work continues on building up the northern side of the cove, which runs parallel to a playground and the public housing complex. When it’s completed at the end of the summer, it will feature a tree-lined shore and a restored concrete shoreline.
In addition to the restored cove, the city aims to bring back the BioBus, a four-wheeled classroom and research lab that aims to teach children about environmental science, to service the area’s youth.
The project was seen as a matter of equity, officials said.
Around 5,000 residents live in the nearby Astoria Houses, where rates of asthma are higher than the city’s average and other environmental impacts have negative effects on residents’ health.
“It will help to improve the lives of our children as they grow up,” said Claudia Coger, a longtime Astoria Houses resident and tenant leader. “With clean air, clean energy, and to be able to breathe – because we have been diagnosed as ‘Asthma Alley’ here in Astoria, and this is one of the conditions that has contributed to that.”
“It gives me great pleasure to be able to stand here on this day to see the difference that has come to the peninsula,” she added.
But equity goals reached beyond environmental impacts and into social impacts.
Hunter’s Point Park, which is less than three miles down the waterfront, was undergoing major changes in the years that plans to transform Hallets Cove began kicking around. The park was completed in 2018, and now attracts visitors from around the city and is surrounded by a growing number of luxury apartment complexes and new businesses.
“We have this amazing, beautiful waterfront to the north and south of here, but you see the break and the disconnect when it comes to the area immediately surrounding low income housing,” said City Councilmember Tiffany Cabán, who replaced Constantinides in the council last year.
“This is going to have not just public health impacts, but public safety impacts,” the councilmember added. “We know that restorations like this make our communities that much safer.”
Hallets Cove is located along Vernon Boulevard and 30th Road.
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