Question: The parking lot at Magic Island has been under reconstruction for several months now. In passing the site every morning for my daily walk, I see no construction activity for weeks while the early morning park users, like myself, scramble up and down the park access road at 5 a.m. looking for a space to park. Does Parks and Recreation have a completion schedule?
Answer: Yours is one of more than a dozen questions or complaints Kokua Line has received about this project in the past two weeks. The work began April 13, when Ala Moana Regional Park was closed to the general public due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was announced then that the work should be completed by the end of the year, and it remains on schedule, Nathan Serota, spokesman for the city Department of Parks and Recreation, said Tuesday.
The pandemic closure lasted from March 18 to April 25, when people returned to the park in droves, searching for parking that is harder to find because the 470-stall Magic Island lot is off-limits. The project’s ongoing work may be less visible because some of it occurs beyond the park’s open hours, he said.
“We understand that the public is anxious for the reopening of this parking lot, which represents about half of the vehicular parking stalls in the busiest park in the state,” Serota said. “Luckily, we were able to begin these much-needed parking lot improvements during a time when park usage from tourists and large events is significantly reduced. For example, the Independence Day fireworks and Lantern Floating Ceremony were canceled and the Hawaii Tourism Authority reported that May 2020 saw a 98.9% reduction in visitor arrivals as compared to May 2019, based on preliminary statistics. We appreciate the continued patience of the public as this project progresses.”
DPR will announce the reopening once a date is confirmed, Serota said, adding the parking lot might reopen slightly ahead of schedule.
The project involves repaving and re-striping the parking lot, removing damaged trees and roots, replanting new trees, improving tree planters and installing new irrigation, constructing a new drop-off zone and installing new park road gates, benches and trash cans.
Q: Are they taking up more space for the new parking lot at Magic Island?
A: No, the parking lot’s footprint will remain the same, according to DPR.
Q: Are they doing the Magic Island fireworks?
A: No. As mentioned in the previous question, the traditional Fourth of July fireworks show at Ala Moana Regional Park was canceled to deter the spread of the novel coronavirus. It’s not advisable for large groups to gather close together, as generally occurs at fireworks shows.
Even smaller gatherings carry risks, health authorities say. If you do attend a backyard barbecue, wear a mask and maintain social distance of 6 feet from other partygoers. And keep a guest list in case someone ends up with COVID-19 and other guests need to be alerted to quarantine.
Q: What’s the maximum benefit under PUA?
A: The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program provides this information on its website:
“PUA provides up to 39 weeks of benefits to individuals not eligible for regular unemployment or extended benefits. PUA is only available from the week ending Feb. 28, 2020, through the week ending Dec. 26, 2020. The minimum amount of weekly assistance an individual may receive is $263 and the maximum is $648.
“The CARES Act also creates a new temporary federal program called Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) that provides an additional $600 weekly benefit to those eligible for PUA. Individuals will be eligible for FPUC payments for the weeks ending April 4, 2020 through July 25, 2020.”
Write to Kokua Line at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or email email@example.com.