Mark Christie, Friends of Gantry Plaza State Park
by Benjamin Fang
Apr 03, 2018 | 1869 views | 0 0 comments | 197 197 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Mark Christie helped create the Friends of Gantry Plaza State Park group nearly two decades ago because he wanted to take care of the green space by the East River waterfront.

“We were the eyes and ears of this park for the past 20 years,” he said.

Through events, advocacy and programming, the group, which morphed into the larger Hunters Point Parks Conservancy, made sure hedges were cut and the garbage was thrown away.

“I believe if there’s an investment of tax dollars, our money, it should be cared for,” Christie said. “With all of the budget cuts, we felt like it was necessary for us to step in to care for this park.”

The organization hosts events like movies, concerts and even gardening sessions at the state park. They also host free programs for kids, such as arts and crafts.

For their 20th anniversary, coming up this May, Christie said they’re planning an event on “I Love My Park Day,” a statewide day to honor local parks. Later on in the year, the group will host a more formal celebration.

But there are still challenges ahead. Christie said budget cuts give even more reason for “Friends of” parks groups to exist, step in and “fill that void.” For example, Gantry Plaza State Park still has no horticulturist or park rangers.

“We are the only park stewards,” he said. “Without the parks groups, I think the park would not be as gorgeous as it is now.”

As a longtime Long Island City resident, Christie said he considers this part of Queens his own “staycation destination.”

“I hope people come, respect the place, enjoy the place. It’s fabulous,” he said. “It’s the crown jewel of Queens parks.”

(Benjamin Fang)
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