Take A Stroll Through Queens’ Top Greenspaces
BY LYNN EDMONDS
Queens contains 37 public parks and 7,273 acres of parkland. Here are a few of the borough’s crown jewels to get you started on exploring its natural beauty and recreational opportunities this summer.
Astoria Park, situated in the Northwest corner of Queens, is one of the most beautiful locations in the borough with a remarkable blend of urban and natural beauty. The approximately one-mile loop around the park follows a gently-winding path through large, old trees, bordered by some of Astoria’s cutest houses on the eastern side. On their way, pedestrians will pass under two iconic New York bridges, the Hell Gate Bridge and the RFK Bridge. To the west, meanwhile, is a boardwalk that stretches along the length of the park, giving an iconic view of the Manhattan skyline and the East River that has made it the setting for many a movie. Keep following the path around the park and you’ll also pass recreational facilities including the largest public outdoor pool in New York City, basketball courts, a large playground, a skateboarding park and a 400-meter outdoor track with a soccer field on the inside and outdoor strength training equipment surrounding it.
Incredibly well-loved and popular, the boardwalk is a wonderful place to people-watch on a warm summer evening. There’s always an ice cream truck, and families strolling along the waterfront, couples holding hands as they gaze out at the East River, tourists and videographers seting up time-lapses recordings of the sunset, and groups of friends speaking English, Spanish, Greek, Arabic, Turkish and Russian as they enjoy the cool breeze from the water and the views of Manhattan.
Whatever outdoor activities you enjoy, you really can’t go wrong by visiting this hub of community and haven of natural beauty in Astoria.
Located at Myrtle Avenue, Union Turnpike, Park Lane South, between the Brooklyn-Queens County Line and Park Lane.
Forest Park is one of the biggest in the borough, at 500 acres. Of that vast expanse, 165 acres are trees. The more natural areas of the park, including the largest oak forest in Queens, are concentrated in the eastern portion. Visitors can even rent horses there to explore the vast terrain in a new and exciting way.
For those that prefer pretend horses, a historic 100-year-old carousel is also still up and running. There’s also a dog park, for your smaller four-legged friends. For walking, hiking and running, the park contains plenty of gentle “knob and kettle” hills to get your heart rate up. The eastern side of the park is more developed with softball, baseball, tennis, bocce and handball courts and a 110-acre, par 67 golf course.
According the Parks Department, the golf course was modeled off of the Scottish Links course and is one of the toughest in the city. Forest Park also contains the band shell, which hosts free and private concerts throughout the summer.
Located between Kissena Boulevard, Rose, Oak, Underhill and Lithonia avenues and Fresh Meadow Lane and Booth Memorial Avenue.
Kissena Park’s most unique feature may be the Velodrome, a special track for cycling races. It’s the only such facility in the borough of Queens, and it’s open to all bikers. The park also has a public golf course, a baseball diamond, tennis and handball courts, bocce courts, and fishing.
Another stand out feature of the park is Kissena Lake, a concrete-lined lake that is suffering from an abundances of phragmites, an invasive species of plant. But it still contains snapping turtles, ducks and other birds like herons, egrets and the bright blue, long-legged gallinules. Many people also fish in the lake.
Kissena Park also connects through Kissena Corridor Park to Flushing Meadows Corona Park and the Brooklyn-Queens Greenway, a 40-mile route which stretches all the way from Fort Totten Park to Coney Island Beach.
►Roy Wilkins Park
Roy Wilkins Park, on Merrick Blvd between 115th Ave and Baisley Blvd in Southeast Queens, is an amazing space to get away from the hustle and bustle of the borough. When it comes to having fun with friends and keeping fit, the park has an indoor swimming pool that is open all four seasons, and handball, basketball and tennis courts.
In addition to that, the park has a four-acre vegetable garden for community members who want to grow their own produce.
The park is named after Roy Wilkins, a civil rights leader and former NAACP president. He led the organization during critical junctures including the Brown v. the Board of Education case, the Civil Rights Act of 1965 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
The park is home to the Black Spectrum Theatre, a theater company that puts on socially conscious plays in a 425-seat theater within the park. They also offer classes and programs. They will be playing “The Mystery of the Dark Water” through June 12.
►Flushing Meadows-Corona Park
Flushing Meadows-Corona Park is the borough’s largest, and flagship park. At 897 acres, it’s a tad larger than Central Park. Flushing Meadows draws thousands of visitors every summer, in equal parts to its fields and running and walking paths as to the cultural institutions including Queens Museum, the New York Hall of Science, the USTA stadium, Citi Field, Queens Theatre, the Queens Zoo and the New York State Pavilion. Visitors at the Queens Museum can attend events with local artists and view changing exhibitions as well as the famed Panorama of the City of New York, a perfect, 9,335-square-foot replica of the city. Historically, the park was the home to the 1939-40 World’s Fair and the 1964-5 World’s Fair, something older Queens’ residents can often describe with vivid accuracy. This year, the park played host to the borough’s first marathon.