City reopens Charybdis Playground
in Astoria Park following $12.5 million
22 OCTOBER 2 0 2 1
Photo courtesy NYC Parks/Daniel Avila
The children’s playground in the heart of Astoria Park,
named for a mythical Greek monster, has reopened to
the public following a $12.5 million renovation.
After the city Parks Department reconstructed
Charybdis Playground over the last two years, the space
now includes a state-of-the-art spray shower, all new
equipment and a complete renovation of the comfort
station, which will be completed this winter.
“Despite the fact it is named after a scary mythological
sea monster, the newly reconstructed Charybdis
Playground is truly a beautiful and fun space that will
serve the recreational needs of Astoria’s children and
families in western Queens neighborhoods for decades
to come,” Queens Borough President Donovan Richards
said. “Having access to first-class parks and recreational
facilities is important to the families of Queens, and I am
glad to see the ongoing major upgrade to our borough’s
park system. I thank the mayor and the Council, including
former Council member and my good friend Costa
Constantinides, for providing this funding.”
Constantinides allocated $3 million in funding for
the project, and Mayor Bill de Blasio delivered $9.4
million as part of the greater Anchor Parks program,
which already completed a new eight-lane track
surrounding a brand-new synthetic turf soccer field;
an adult fitness area adjacent to the track; new site
amenities including water fountains and benching
lining the East River waterfront; as well as a new rain
garden and much-needed erosion control.
“This is wonderful,” de Blasio said during an earlier
press briefing on Sept. 24. “It is a renovation to one of
the most popular playgrounds in all of Queens. Kids
are going to love this, and for so many hardworking
families in Astoria and surrounding neighborhoods,
this is going to be a step in the right direction.”
Later that day, the mayor named Gabrielle Fialkoff
as NYC Parks commissioner. She replaces Acting
Commissioner Margaret Nelson, who helped cut the
ribbon at Charybdis Playground.
“We’re delighted to celebrate the tremendous
transformation of Charybdis Playground,” Nelson
said. “With new play equipment and an interactive
spray play area that incorporates a piece of this
historic park’s past, Charybdis Playground is better
equipped to serve Astoria for generations to come.
We’re grateful to Mayor de Blasio and former Council
member Constantinides for their dedication and
commitment to providing New Yorkers with quality,
EXPLORE YOUR BORO
Legends of LIC
The Gantries of Long Island City
TBY GREATER ASTORIA HISTORICAL SOCIETY he waterfront towers
of Gantry Park
are powerful symbols
from our past.
They represent an
era of boundless
opportunities, when Long
Island City was the gateway
between Long Island
and Manhattan Island.
Queens West Development
Corporation has not
only retained these historic artifacts, but uses them as their logo. We get
the point. Hunters Point remains a portal to new opportunities.
They were “rail car transfer bridges,” devices that knitted together New
York harbor’s far-flung rail network. Without the need for bridges or tunnels,
railcars could go from one rail terminal to another via harbor vessels
known as “car floats,” barges that had no need for holds but had flat decks
with railroad tracks.
Transfer bridges, those marvelous devices which conveyed railcars
between barges and rail terminals, had ancient roots because their ancestors
were humble gangplanks used since antiquity to move items on
and off a boat. As early as 1838, a railroad used a transfer bridge to ferry
cars across the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania. They were primitive
affairs, being little more than floating pontoons and were subject to damage
from ice, tides or seawater. Steamboats with paddlewheels, guiding
the barges, were underpowered and unwieldy. The complex interplay of
tide, shifting weight and currents made the process not only time-consuming
but, in bad weather, dangerous.
Just after the Civil War, the pieces began to fall into place. Screw-propelled
tugboats with both power and agility to manage large barges became
common. Developments on the Erie Canal in the 1870s created a
new idea: bridges that were half-suspended at the shore end.
The railroads soon took notice. The Pennsylvania Railroad’s engineering
department, with a reputation for converting technology into practical
applications, revolutionized that era’s transportation. Their lift bridges, at
the cutting edge of technology for that time, became the gold standard.
The Gantry Park lift bridges were a product of this spirit.
At its center was a riveted plate girder — the “bridge” — a half-suspended
span with pivots at both ends. On the landward side, it was hinged to
a spur that ran track from the rail yard. On the seaward end, it was joined
with a smaller piece, called an “apron," whose face had pins that fit into
sockets on the arriving car floats.
The bridge-apron itself was suspended by steel cables that was balanced
by counterweights in the “tower” (or alternatively a “gallows
frame” or “gantry”). The machinery to raise and lower the bridge was
similar to a lift bridge. It was powered initially by steam, and later by
electricity. Despite its massive size, delicate adjustments could be
made ensuring car floats and bridges were firmly bound together. A
light “reacher” or “idler” car actually shepherded cars off and on the
floats, keeping the heavier locomotive on shore. Electrical controls and
switching gear were in the operator’s house.
The process was elegant as it was ingenious even in this (simplified)
BY BILL PARRY
Greater Astoria Historical Society
44-02 23RD ST. #219
LONG ISLAND CITY, NY 11101
INFO@ASTORIALIC.ORG / WWW.ASTORIALIC.ORG
Photo courtesy of Greater Astoria Historical Society