Fifteen years ago, I wrote an article for the Juniper Berry about some of the deficiencies and problems I
noticed at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park and thought it might be interesting to see what changes have been made to remedy these problems. Spoiler Alert: Zip, Zero, Zilch, Nada, Nothing.
Flushing Meadows-Corona Park is considered the jewel of the Queens parks. It is the home of two World’s Fairs, Citi Field, multiple tennis stadiums, the Queens Museum, Queens Theater, Queens Zoo, Hall of Science, Pitch & Putt golf course, and an aquatic center for swimming and ice skating. It has two manmade lakes. Meadow Lake is the largest in the city and nearby is Willow Lake. There are concessions for boat and bike rentals at Meadow Lake. Sprinkled throughout the park are numerous baseball, football and soccer fields and beautiful gardens. There is really something for the whole family and this is why the park is one of the most used parks in the city.
As someone who enjoys riding my bike in the park, I noticed many safety issues that needed addressing. I have written to the Parks Commissioner, spoken with the park managers and workers and all agree there are problems. I am told they have a Master Plan and it will solve many of my concerns, the only problem is the lack of funding. How can the park lack funding, with all the large events such as the US Open, NY Mets and large concerts? I would think money wouldn’t be a problem. The park also has a conservancy that helps raise additional funding.
I had concerns about the lack of bike lanes or even marked roads and lack of signage reminding drivers to share the road and the poor condition of many of the roads. My main concern was in the area of the Flushing Promenade and the roads to get there from the rest of the park. When the promenade’s $21 million project was completed 16 years ago, I wanted to see if there was going to be an improvement. They did a great job with greenery and benches and brick work but they forgot to include an access for pedestrians and bikes in the walkway from the Citi Field area. Pedestrians and bicyclist have to cross a busy roadway and watch out for trailer trucks and speeding cars to get to the Flushing Marina area. There is no traffic light, no crosswalk and no curb cuts anywhere. I wrote to NYCDOT and Councilman Moya, and he helped get a traffic study. The study said there wasn’t a problem there, and I was dumbfounded. I have biked all over the city and in all the big parks such as Central Park, Prospect Park and Pelham Bay Park and they have marked bike lanes and a lot less traffic than Flushing Meadows which has cars exiting highways into the park and many parking lots for all its attractions, plus many vehicles for the Parks and Police Depts. At large events cars are zooming all over and at times park on the grassy areas. Try doing that in the other parks – it wouldn’t be allowed. I challenge the Parks Dept. and DOT officials to bike this route and say it is safe.
Now, travel to the area of the park south of the LIE where the parks two lakes are. Years ago, bike paths and exercise equipment were stationed around Meadow Lake, but they are long gone. Willow Lake is isolated and it involves crossing busy Jewel Ave to get there. In Mayor Bloomberg’s attempt to get the Olympics in NYC he had a plan to combine the two lakes and make a bridge over the lakes at Jewel Ave. but that never happened. There also were plans to daylight Flushing Creek where it enters Meadow Lake to make the park more attractive, but that never happened. There also was a plan to remove the many paved roads and plant grass; that too still hasn’t happened. The whole park could use major landscaping improvements to help blot out all the highway sights, sounds and air pollution.
What does the future look like for Flushing Meadows-Corona Park? With mega developments in Flushing and in Willet’s Point planned, many more people will be living there and using the park. This will also affect the water quality of Meadow Lake which is poor already. Flushing Bay and Creek are already polluted from sewage that is dumped in untreated to the tune of a billion gallons a year. An enormous sewage tank built in the park to contain the sewage is already obsolete. Does the city really care about the park? Remember a few years ago they approved a plan to build a mall in Citi Field parking lot. It was only because concerned parkgoers stood up and fought the city in court that their plans were dashed. Also remember the plans to make a Formula One race track around Meadow Lake? We already have cars racing on the LIE, the Grand Central Parkway and the Van Wyck Expressway – we didn’t need them in our park. Recent years saw the city cede parkland to the Tennis Association for a stadium and we saw the loss of many large trees. Do you think the city would do this in Central Park? I think not.
How can the Parks Dept. and NYCDOT allow these unsafe dangerous conditions to exist for so long? This is at a time when the city is promoting biking and putting protected bike lanes all over the city even where people don’t want them and many are unused. Also the Open Streets plan closes residential streets for playing, where people have to drive and park thus impeding the flow of traffic. On top of that drivers have to get out of their cars and move barricades to get by, how crazy is that?
Flushing Meadows-Corona Park is full of history, culture and activities and could be one of the great city parks. Making the park safe for the people should be a priority Here we have a large flat park, perfect for easy family biking and what does the city do? Nothing. I do believe we will have bike paths on the Moon before we have them in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park!