One day while at the park, he saw Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas walking around the Astoria playground with Parks Department officials. She asked visitors, including Moreno, what they would want to see improved at the park.
After he relayed some ideas and other proposals he heard from others, she asked him if he ever considered starting an advocacy group as a conduit between the community and city officials.
“I said, ‘great, let’s start it now,’” Moreno said. “So I did.”
Friends of Ditmars Park today has over 300 members on its Facebook page and an ongoing email list.
One of the major accomplishments of the group was getting a youthmarket to come to Ditmars Park. Moreno surveyed some 300 residents asking them what they were looking for in terms of fresh produce.
“I knew that farmers markets were available, but we didn’t have one locally,” he said.
After connecting with Councilman Costa Constantinides, Moreno got in touch with GrowNYC, which runs a youthmarket program.
Now in its fourth season, the Ditmars Park youthmarket runs every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. until November 23.
“It has been an enormous, positive experience,” Moreno said. “People continue to love it.”
Moving forward, Moreno is hoping to get an overhaul of the entire playground, which includes an area for young children, basketball and racquetball courts in the back, and a bocce court.
Some improvement ideas include a timer for the spray shower and being able to lock the entrances at night.
“I want to leave Astoria better than I found it, if I ever walk away,” Moreno said. “I think a lot of other people feel the same.”