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Local News July 25, 2013  RSS feed

NO LANDMARK FOR ‘MEADOWS’

Say Corona Park Was Changed Too Much
by Robert Pozarycki


Standing in front of the Unisphere—the only landmark in Flushing Meadows Corona Park—State Sen. Tony Avella (standing at podium) called last Friday, July 19, for the entire park to be declared a scenic landmark by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission. Shown at left is Paul Graziano, a local historian and candidate for the 19th City Council District seat based in Bayside. Standing in front of the Unisphere—the only landmark in Flushing Meadows Corona Park—State Sen. Tony Avella (standing at podium) called last Friday, July 19, for the entire park to be declared a scenic landmark by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission. Shown at left is Paul Graziano, a local historian and candidate for the 19th City Council District seat based in Bayside. Claiming that Flushing Meadows-Corona Park did not meet specific qualifications for historic status, the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) rejected a request by State Sen. Tony Avella to declare Queens’ largest public greenspace as a landmark.

Avella formally sought landmark status for the 1,255-acre park— where three large development proposals are currently pending—in a February letter to the LPC. He noted at the time that Flushing Meadows was historically significant, as it was the site of the 1939-40 and 1964-65 World’s Fairs and temporarily housed the United Nations General Assembly between 1946 and 1950.

In an email to the Times Newsweekly on Monday morning, July 22, an LPC spokesperson explained the commission rejected con- sidering Flushing Meadows for status as a “designated scenic landmark,” believing the park “does not rise to the level of a scenic landmark because its design lacks cohesiveness and it’s been changed over time.”

The LPC defines a “scenic landmark” as “a landscape feature or group of features situated on cityowned property that is at least 30 years old and is architecturally, historically and/or culturally significant to the development and heritage of New York City, New York State or the U.S.”

The LPC spokesperson also indicated the commission determined the park “is not considered an important example of its designer, the landscape architect and engineer Gilmore D. Clarke.”

Presently, there are 10 scenic landmarks in New York City, including Bryant and Central parks in Manhattan and Prospect Park and the lengths of Eastern and Ocean parkways in Brooklyn. No scenic landmarks have been designated outside of Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Avella blasted the LPC’s rejection and demanded during a press conference in front of the Unisphere last Friday, July 19, that the commission reconsider its decision and hold a public hearing to solicit input from Queens residents.

Ironically, the Unisphere—the steel globe erected for the 1964-65 World’s Fair—was previously designated by the LPC as a landmark.

“It is clear to me that with its rich history and importance as Queens’ most significant and treasured park, Flushing Meadows Corona Park deserves landmark recognition, especially now,” Avella said, referencing the three development proposals within Flushing Meadows being considered by the city.

One plan, put forth by the U.S. Tennis Association (USTA), would expand the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center to include a new 6,000-seat arena and several parking garages. It is anticipated that the project will result in the loss of a little more than a half-acre of Flushing Meadows parkland.

A second project under consideration is the proposed development by Sterling Equities—the owners of the New York Mets—and Related Companies of a large entertainment and shopping complex in the parking lot adjacent to Citi Field, where Shea Stadium once stood. This parking lot is still considered as being part of Flushing Meadows Park.

Major League Soccer (MLS) also pitched an idea to build a new soccer arena with up to 35,000 seats on or adjacent to the Fountain of the Planets on the eastern end of Flushing Meadows

Park for an expansion team.

That idea, however, appears to have lost some steam, as the owners of the expansion team—New York City FC, which would be the second MLS franchise in the tri-state area— agreed to begin play in Yankee Stadium in the Bronx and are eyeing locations other than Flushing Meadows for a permanent home field.

Were Flushing Meadows Park to be declared a scenic landmark, under LPC guidelines, the commission would be required to review and approve any development plan for the park. Such oversight was conducted by the LPC for projects such as the construction of an ice skating rink at Prospect Park and renovations to Tavern on the Green in Central Park.

“With three separate development proposals threatening to take away valuable parkland, Flushing Meadows Corona Park needs to be preserved now more than ever,” Avella said last Friday. “Parkland is sacred. The city should not be entertaining these proposals which would radically reduce open and recreational space for the hundreds of thousands of Queens residents who use this park on a yearly basis. Instead, the city should landmark this vital borough park to ensure its continued usage for generations to come and send a clear message that parkland is not for sale.”