Respecting the past, Building the future

OLD ASTORIA NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION supports volunteer groups cleanup Whitey Ford Field

Last Saturday Whitey Ford Field was opened for the first time in four years. The Old Astoria Neighborhood Association, Friends of Whitey Ford Field, Frank Sinatra High School, and Queens Lighted Softball Association came together to prepare the ballpark for opening day. During the Spring, shrubs, and weeds had sprouted up all over the infield after the field had just been restored. In March Parks Department contacted all the significant stakeholders and past permit holders to help remove unnecessary trash and waste. Friends of Whitey Ford helped coordinate all the groups in obtaining greening materials with Partnership For Parks! Please see this article from the Queens Gazette.

When all the volunteer groups arrived Saturday Morning, the NYC Parks Department (which had started work the previous night) had removed all the shrubs and weeds to pick up the garbage and waste. Teams of two of the three volunteers coomed inside and outside the field with grabbers, shovels, trowels, and rakes. Vandals had cut the fencing two weeks before the cleanup, which required additional repairs. It was determined that the fence had been cut so a dog owner could walk it inside. Particular attention was paid to the out areas of the ballpark in an effort to clean up any mess. The volunteers were joined by Richard Khuzami, president of OANA , as well as our Councilmember Tiffany Caban.

Whitey Ford Field has a long history going back to 1906. It is one of the oldest amateur ballfields in Queens. Initially owned by the Board of Education, Robert Moses’s Parks Department acquired the field in October 1943 for $100,00. There was a grandstand in disrepair, and Moses claimed at the time that the parks department could better maintain the area. Unfortunately, over the next 60 years, the field fell into decline again. The field became known as Hell Gate Field from 1943-2000. the area was officially dedicated as Astoria Hell Gate Ballfield from 1995-2000. During the 1950s,60s, 70s, and 80s, the old timers called it the PAL (Police Athletic League) field. The old stadium was torn down, and a much smaller fieldhouse replaced it. A few still remember the stadium.

Neil Herdan, the co-chair of the friends’ group, mentioned that Whitey Ford Field is a diamond in the rough With the assistance of our elected officials, Parks Demand, and neighborhood organizations, we hope to restore the field to the days when many baseball leagues used it. In addition to sporting events, we would like to see the surrounding spaces used for other recreational activities such as movie nights, battle of the bands, and even Poetry Under the Stars.”

Whitey Ford Field, 26th ave btwn 1st and 2nd sts, Astoria NY
Whitey Ford Field, 26th ave btwn 1st and 2nd sts, Astoria NY

Currently, only one other existing project is being undertaken; the sea wall is in the design stage of a $5-10 Million construction project. In comparison, renovation and repairs at Whitey Ford Field were estimated at $2.9 Million. The leagues have asked for new fencing and repairs to the lights, some of which are beginning to corrode near the seawall. The Parks Department has promised to regularly remove unnecessary weeds and cut the grass.

Photo credits Neil Herdan (group photo) and Richard Khuzami (volunteer photos)

Neil Herdan is an Astoria resident as well as co-chair of Friends of Whitey Ford Field.

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