By Joe Marvilli
While the flagship parks of Manhattan and Brooklyn have been landmarked, it does not look like Flushing Meadows Corona Park will be as lucky.
The Landmark Preservation Commission revealed its decision on July 9 to not grant landmark status to the 897-acre park, a decision attributed to its changing nature over time and its lack of cohesiveness.
“We determined that the park does not rise to the level of a scenic landmark because its design lacks cohesiveness and it’s been changed over time,” LPC communications director Elisabeth de Bourbon said. “In addition, the park is not considered an important example of its designer, the landscape architect and engineer Gilmore Clarke.”
Not everyone agreed with that assessment, though.
Borough President candidate State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) met with a few other civic leaders in front of the Unisphere, which was landmarked in 1995, on July 19 to protest the LPC’s denial and the lack of public input in the decision-making process. He made mention of the park’s historic history as the home to two World’s Fairs and the General Assembly of the United Nations before its permanent headquarters was built.
“Why does Queens always get treated like a stepchild?” he said. “You mean to tell me that Queens doesn’t deserve the same recognition? This park is a treasure.”
“It’s the background for a lot of families here in Queens County,” Henry Euler, first vice president of the Auburndale Improvement Association, said. “The Landmarks Preservation Committee cannot ignore us any longer.”
“I don’t think there’s any place else where you will find collectively all these structures that together have historical significance,” Christina Wilkinson, president of the Newtown Historical Society, said. “It’s a shame the City doesn’t recognize this.”
“I respect the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s decision, but I will continue to work to preserve, protect and enhance Flushing Meadows Corona Park,” Borough President Helen Marshall said in a statement.
BP candidates Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) and Melinda Katz both felt the park needed protection but the LPC was not the best method.
“It would have been a long, arduous process and never would have been completed in time to affect these projects,” Vallone said. “Luckily, the City Council has the final say and I will fight to ensure no Queens parkland is ever given to a sheik for one dollar.”
“The landmarks process requires that a site not have been significantly altered in the last 30 years–which automatically disqualifies Flushing Meadows. But more importantly, communities need to have a seat of power when these decisions are made,” Katz said.
Flushing Meadows Corona Park is facing three development proposals within its boundaries: the United States Tennis Association’s expansion, the Willets Point retail center and Major League Soccer’s stadium.
To qualify as a landmark, the landscape feature or group of features must be at least 30 years old and architecturally, historically and/or culturally significant to the development and heritage of New York City, New York State or the U.S.
None of New York City’s 10 scenic landmarks are found in Queens, though the LPC mentioned that Queens has the third highest number of landmark properties in the City, behind Manhattan and Brooklyn.
When asked about Avella’s call for the LPC to reconsider its decision and include a public hearing, Bourbon said, “It’s unlikely; however, if more evidence about the park’s architectural and historic significance comes to light, we will carefully evaluate it.”
Reach Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @Joey788.