FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 6, 2011
MAYOR BLOOMBERG OPENS ELMHURST PARK IN QUEENS
Former KeySpan Gas Tank Site is Transformed into $20 Million, Six-Acre Community Open Space
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe today opened Elmhurst Park, a former brownfield turned greenspace, in Queens. The $20-million six-acre project began in 2007 at the request of the community for more open space. The park replaces the former KeySpan gas tank site and features a new playground, a decorative fountain, lighting, new trees and landscaping, fencing, walking paths, benches, and the renovation of an existing building that will be used for maintenance staff. The Mayor and Commissioner Benepe were joined at the park opening by Congress Member Joseph Crowley, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, Assembly Member Margaret Markey, and National Grid Community Affairs Program Manager Renee McClure.
“Throughout New York City, we are reclaiming former brownfield sites and turning them into new parks, housing and other uses that benefit our local communities,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “This site was long known as the home of the KeySpan gas tanks, but, thanks to the City’s investment and collaboration among area officials and community representatives, it will now be known as Elmhurst Park and enjoyed by residents and families in the neighborhood.”
“Elmhurst Park is a perfect example of how New York City can reclaim former industrial land for new productive uses to create a greener, greater New York,” said Commissioner Benepe. “The park’s innovative design allows young New Yorkers to remember the site’s past as the iconic Elmhurst gas tanks while embracing the City’s more sustainable future.”
Elmhurst Park is the former location of the two KeySpan Newtown gas holders, known as the Elmhurst gas tanks, which were 275-feet in diameter and visible from the highway. In the late 1990s, the KeySpan Company (now National Grid) removed the tanks, and, in 2001, it began remediation of the site as per a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Voluntary Cleanup Agreement. In 2004, KeySpan agreed to sell the land to the City for $1, and it was officially transferred in 2005. The creation of Elmhurst Park advances the goals of PlaNYC, the City’s long-term environmental sustainability plan.
“Today, one thing is crystal clear: when this community comes together to make life better in Queens, there is nothing that can stop us,” said Congress Member Crowley. “Along with Mayor Bloomberg, local officials and community groups, I am proud to have been a part of the effort to turn the dream of a park at the KeySpan site into a reality. Now, instead of an eyesore or a big box retailer, we have a beautiful park that Queens residents can enjoy for years to come.”
“Elmhurst Park is a much-needed and welcome creation in this community,” said Borough President Marshall. “The playground, benches, trees and fountains will attract visitors of all ages to a green and open area for relaxation and recreation. I thank Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the Parks Department and National Grid for working together to turn six acres into the latest urban oasis in our great city. This area, where tanks once held natural gas, will now be filled with gales of laughter.”
“This 6.5-acre green oasis in a densely populated area where the gas tanks once stood has now miraculously replaced them,” said State Senator Joseph Addabbo, Jr. “For almost 10 years, the Juniper Park Civic Association pushed local electeds and the City to convert a former eyesore and traffic landmark into today’s $20 million community greenspace of lawns, trees, playgrounds, jogging paths, seating, sculpture, and modern comfort stations. I join the mayor, the Juniper Park community activists, Community Board 4, the families, seniors, and hard-working people of Elmhurst, who longed for a new patch of green when the gas tanks came down, in congratulating all of them on this hard-won accomplishment. They filled the need for a new and beautiful park resting between Grand Avenue and the L.I. Expressway. Queens is already one of the greenest boroughs with many big, beautiful parks. With all of our continuing efforts, we’ll ensure Queens keeps turning crowded urban areas like this into more livable and enjoyable places for all our people to enjoy the outdoors.”
“This wonderful park is a tribute to how great things happen when government and the community work together to convince a private company to do a good thing,” said Assembly Member Markey. “As a result of the area’s public officials working together with Speaker Silver, the City, and the private sector, what was not long ago an ugly gas tank site is now a magnificent new park which will be enjoyed by many future generations.”
“The opening of Elmhurst Park is a great example of what can be done when we all work together,” said City Council Member Karen Koslowitz. “I look forward to this park being a wonderful place for the community to enjoy.”
The construction of Elmhurst Park began with the addition of new perimeter sidewalks, street trees, underground utilities, retaining walls, fencing and plantings. Storm water will be collected over approximately half the site in an underground retention system consisting of perforated pipes and broken stone wrapped in filter fabric to reduce the amount of water flowing into the sewer pipes in the street. In addition to the new playground, decorative fountain, paths, benches, site security lighting and additional plantings, the park features people- powered play pieces, in the spirit of the energy-storing history of this site. Children can pedal a stationary bike to provide a light effect on a nearby column. The playground is suitable for tots as well as older children. Its spray shower area doubles as a performance space and can be adapted for use of a portable stage. In 2012, the final phase will be complete with the construction of the comfort station.
“PlaNYC is all about making the best use of New York City’s natural resources – including land,” said Mayor’s Office of Long-term Planning and Sustainability Director David Bragdon. “Transforming brownfields to greenfields is a great example of how we’re turning liabilities into assets to build a greater, greener New York.”
“This park is a wonderful example of the State and City working together to turn a contaminated site that was a blight on the community into a terrific resource for the public to enjoy,” said New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joseph Martens. “We are pleased that under our cleanup standards this site was able to be developed into a beautiful park and vibrant center for the community.”
More than 620 trees were planted, along with shrubs and perennials. Park construction included creating a woodland garden as a quiet sitting area for seniors within the existing grove of 16 trees, which was expanded with dogwoods, woodland shrubs, bluebells and ferns. Evergreens were used on the perimeter to screen off-site parking lots and warehouses. The Elmhurst community’s early history as a place of orchards and farms is recalled by a new orchard of crab apples, on the hillside facing the Long Island Expressway. Close to Grand avenue, new Zelkova trees were planted around a small oval green intended.
In April 2009, the Parks Department received the Big Apple Brownfield Open Space Award for its work on Elmhurst Park. The Big Apple Brownfield Award program recognizes the most creative and innovative brownfield projects in New York City.
Stu Loeser/Andrew Brent (212) 788-2958
Vickie Karp (Parks) (212) 360-1311
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