BY LYNN EDMONDS
New plantings around Flushing Meadows Corona Park’s Meadow Lake will make the area both more pleasant for visitors as well as more environmentally friendly, Parks officials say.
Last Thursday, the Parks Department and local elected officials, Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest) and Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills), as well as former Councilman Jim Genarro, cut the ribbon on the $3 million lakefront restoration project.
The project was part of a larger strategic framework plan for the park, which is slated to receive $200 million in funding – far more than any other park in the city.
The work on Meadow Lake involved uprooting invasive phragmites, a plant that does little to encourage a healthy ecosystem, and planting new grasses, shrubs and trees in their place. Volunteers planted a total of 1,650 trees and shrubs and 22 species of native plants and grasses. These diverse plant species allow for a clearer view of the lake than the phragmites, in addition to providing better habitat for local wildlife, Marit Larson, Director of Wetlands Restoration for NYC Parks, said.
Most importantly, the restored wetlands should do a better job of stopping contaminated storm run-off from gushing into lake during heavy rains. That task is aided by a bio-retention basin that will treat the first flush of storm water coming from the Grand Central Parkway.
In order to reduce confusion among pedestrians and bikers, the Parks Department also removed one of two paths that ring the lake. They removed the path closest to the lake because it frequently flooded, extending the wetlands into that area.
Parks also built two berms to help block the noise of traffic from the nearby Grand Central Parkway. The small hills create a feeling of “solitude,” Janice Melnick, the Administrator of FMCP, said.
If city residents “want to get way from the hustle and bustle, this is the place to come, along with Willow Lake,” she added.
The lakes, which are located in the southern part of the park, are quieter and more natural than the northern part of the park, which features attractions like the Queens Museum, sports fields, and the Queens Zoo.
Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver cited research that spending time in a natural environment improves mental health.
“Think about the relaxation you get just walking around this lake, looking at the beauty,” Silver said.
Two concrete outlooks at the lake’s edge will provide visitors a way to get up close and personal with the lake and the wildlife that make their home there. Additionally, the outlooks will provide a vantage point to view the sailboats and crew shells that dot the lake in the summer time, as well as the colorful dragon boats that grace the surface while rowers practice for their annual race in August.
Last November, Lancman complained that the southern part of the park was perpetually ignored when it came to renovations. He complained of poorly maintained paths with flooded potholes as being a primary issue.
But that problem may be coming to an end.
In a statement, he hailed the wetland restoration as being a first step.
“This investment is crucial for the southern half of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, and hopefully represents just the beginning of needed improvements in my portion of the park,” Lancman said.
“Our goal is to make the entire lake a pleasant place to pass through,” Melnick said.
The restoration was funded with $1.4 million from the City Council and $1.4 million from the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation Clean Water-Clean Air Act grant.
Reach Lynn Edmonds at (718) 357-7400 x127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @Ellinoamerikana