At Wednesday night’s Community Board 12 meeting, former councilman Archie Spigner proposed revitalizing one of Southeast Queens’ favorite parks with help from the city’s Parks Without Borders renovation program.
The Parks Without Borders program works to beautify existing green spaces across the city by making them more welcoming and open to visitors. The group removes unsightly barriers as well as repairs the surrounding edges, entryways and other park-adjacent spaces. According to Spigner, giving Roy Wilkins Southern Queens Park this kind of overhaul would vastly improve both the look of the park as well as the quality of life in the surrounding area.
“It’s a park in our community that I think is the perfect fit for the Park Without Borders treatment,” Spigner said.
Roy Wilkins Park, which is home to the Black Spectrum Theater and Roy Wilkins Recreation Center, has a storied history. During the 1970s, Spigner and other activists in the community fought to keep the federal government from converting the neighborhood greenspace into an industrial area. After months of protests and fighting, the activists successfully convinced the federal government to hand the property over to the city of New York. As the city struggled financially in the years that followed, Roy Wilkins Park saw a number of additions, including fencing, ticketing and security booths as well as other amenities that block it off from passersby.
“You almost expect somebody with a rifle to come out and ask you for a passport,” Spigner said. “It’s a rather strange configuration because those were different times. If you look at [St. Albans Memorial Park], there are no fences. It blends seamlessly into the community. You ride past [Roy Wilkins], and you see eight-foot fences with spikes.”
Spigner said that he didn’t want to force the issue on the community board, but instead wanted to propose the idea as something to consider down the line.
“Some of us think that it is worthy of our time and attention to make [Roy Wilkins] Southern Queens Park like Alley Pond Park and like Cunningham Park, free of fences and barriers,” he said. “They enhance the community as opposed to giving you a negative feeling.”