Today’s news:

Gateway Park to receive $1M for athletic facilities

A borough congressman said Frank Charles and West Hamilton Beach parks in Howard Beach will get tennis courts, baseball fields, basketball courts and an exercise path as part of renovation projects in Gateway National Recreation Area.

U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Kew Gardens) said the projects, announced during the national environmental observance of Earth Day on April 22, will be completed in 2005 and cost $1 million.

Weiner also said he is hoping to initiate a greenway project in the wildlife refuge from Broad Channel to allow walkers, runners and bicyclists direct access to the recreation area. He said the plan has yet to be finalized but is estimated to cost $1.4 million.

More than $34 million in renovations and enhancements are taking place at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, Jacob Riis Park and other parts of Gateway National Recreation Area, Weiner said.

"Though millions enjoy Gateway National Park every year, it's still one of New York City's best kept secrets," Weiner said. "Gateway is a remarkable oasis right in the middle of the hurly-burly of big city life and is a place where anyone looking to get away can find something fun, interesting and educational to do."

Weiner detailed new and ongoing projects in the 26,607-acre site. He said many of the new projects will enhance the area that is adjacent to Howard Beach and the Rockaway peninsula.

Gateway National Park, which has an operating budget of $20 million, lies in both Queens and Brooklyn. Weiner said some 8.95 million people visited the recreation area last year.

Weiner, who said he has helped secure a majority of the money behind the projects since he was first elected in 1998, outlined upgrades throughout the national park that include a new visitors' center for the wildlife refuge and plans to preserve the salt marshes in Jamaica Bay.

He also described a new venture to restore the bathhouse and par 3 Pitch and Putt golf course at Jacob Riis Park. All renovations at Riis Park are scheduled to be finished by 2005 at a cost of $5.1 million.

"Gateway in the 21st century is going to be the best it's ever been," said Weiner, who also detailed a new family sports complex, golf center and marina for the national park.

Gateway National Recreation Area was formed in the 1970s when the city sold the land to the federal government during its financial crisis. Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is home to 9,000 acres of waterways and is one of the largest bird sanctuaries in the United States.

Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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