Runners and walkers took to the streets of Long Island City last weekend for the sixth LIC Waterfront 5K Run/Walk. Organized by the Hunters Point Parks Conservancy, this year’s 5K was a return to form after a one-year hiatus due to the pandemic.
Approximately 1,100 people signed up for this year’s event, a number that even surprised its organizers. The Center Boulevard Dash, a special race for children, was also held.
The event is the conservancy’s largest fundraiser of the year.
“I was surprised by how many people came, but everyone had a great time,” said Rob Basch, president of the Hunters Point Parks Conservancy. “It reflects really well on the neighborhood that so many people wanted to do something healthy outside together.”
Long Island City has been experiencing significant change for the past decade, with new buildings rising in the neighborhood, bringing with them many new residents.
Basch sees the LIC 5K — and all of the Hunters Point Parks Conservancy’s programming — as a way for new and old neighborhood residents to come together.
“I would say it was about half new people and half old people,” said Basch of those who signed up for the 5K.
However, the influx of new residents has posed some challenges. During the height of the pandemic, the Hunters Point Parks Conservancy was forced to work especially hard to maintain the neighborhood’s green spaces as an unprecedented number of people flocked to them for some much needed outdoors time.
“Last year was challenging with a lot of illegal activity in the park,” Basch explained. “People were drinking outside and having raves until 3 a.m. because they weren’t able to meet anywhere else.
“There are going to be a ton of new people coming to the neighborhood, and we have a strong desire to keep the parks clean and safe for the future,” he added. “You need a strong conservancy to maintain these spaces, for the people who already live in the neighborhood and for the people who visit here because they recognize we have great parks.”
Yet for Basch and his partners at the Hunters Point Conservancy, the work of maintaining neighborhood green space is always rewarding.
Basch moved to Long Island City from across the river 12 years ago.
“When I lived in Manhattan, I never felt a desire to contribute to the community,” he said. “Now in Long Island City, I know all the restaurant and bar owners by name. At events, I am always talking to my neighbors. It’s like a small town, so it’s rewarding to give back.”
The Hunters Point Parks Conservancy has a number of other events planned for the rest of year. These include the LIC Bulb Fest near the end of October, during which neighborhood residents will plant daffodils and tulips in Gantry Plaza State Park and Hunter’s Point South Park.
For a full calendar of events, visit hunterspointparks.org.