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Flushing Meadows Corona Park

Flushing Bay Promenade

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

Once home to Matinecock Native Americans, Flushing Bay has long been an important waterfront in New York City. The Matinecocks, and the European settlers who eventually supplanted them, harvested salt hay, fish, crabs, clams, oysters, and waterfowl from the bay and surrounding wetlands.

During the American Revolution, the Lent Farmhouse stood on the site now occupied by the World's Fair Marina, and British forces occupying Newtown and Flushing used it as the headquarters for the 37th British Regiment. The area's natural beauty made it a popular waterfront resort immediately following the Civil War, and many wealthy New Yorkers built elegant houses here. The infamous concert-saloon-keeper and impresario Harry Hill erected his Flushing Bay Hotel and Pavilion on the World's Fair Marina site, and his steamboat would ply the route between Flushing and his Houston Street Hotel in Manhattan.

By the 1920s, the 1,200-acre Flushing Meadows had been turned into a gigantic ash dump. F. Scott Fitzgerald described the scene in his 1925 novel The Great Gatsby: a "valley of ashes . . . bounded on one side by a small foul river . . . a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens." As coal use had increased during the 19th century, the existing wetlands, as well as the creek that flowed from Flushing Bay, were filled to facilitate the site's use as a dump. But Tammany Hall stalwart Fishhooks McCarthy was given sole use of the grounds, and at one point, his Brooklyn Ash Removal Company was unloading 110 railroad carloads of garbage a day to be burned.

Commissioner Robert Moses (1888-1981) used the 1939-40 and 1964-65 World's Fairs, which were held on the meadows, to rehabilitate the area. The Flushing Bay Promenade, a project planned back in the 1980s, is one of the most important additions to the park since the Moses era.

At a time when New York City is reclaiming its waterfront, the promenade dramatically improves access to Flushing Bay. It is the longest project ever undertaken in Queens by Parks & Recreation. The promenade stretches 1.4 miles, from the base of the 27th Avenue overpass to the west to the new $1.6 million boat ramp to the east.

The Flushing Bay Promenade is bounded by 1.45 miles of railing, and pedestrians can refresh themselves at one of 17 drinking fountains or rest on the World's Fair benches - the promenade contains 1,237 linear feet of benches. Nearly six acres of new sod were laid, along with 1,037 new trees and 10,944 new shrubs for shade and greenery. 574,264 square feet - 13.16 acres - of new pedestrian and vehicular pavements were installed, and the promenade is made more attractive by granite hex block pavers - approximately 365,820 of them, all set by hand.

The promenade was constructed at a cost of $14.8 million, funded by the Department of Environmental Protection. DEP provided the monies in exchange for Parks allowing the construction of a new sewer overflow tank in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. The tank, which is scheduled for completion in 2002, will prevent flooding in the area and stop sewer runoff into Flushing River and Flushing Bay.

Aside from its sheer size, the promenade is graced with a number of artistic flourishes. Seven overlooks provide vantage points over Flushing Bay, and they are each marked with eight graphic panels designed by artist Gregg LeFevre. The panels depict one plant and one animal species for each letter of the alphabet, for a total of 52, with an additional panel at the start and end of the promenade.

At the eastern end of the promenade, near the World's Fair Marina's Pier One, artist Jackie Ferrara has enhanced the soaring white shade structures - known as Candela structures for the artist Felix Candela (1910-19__) who designed them for the 1964-65 World's Fair - with a complementary abstract geometric paving pattern. Ferrara's design also includes special benches, an in the artist's words, the project as a whole is meant to "be a part of, include, and interface with the site . . . reflect the topography, the functions, and the history of the area . . . and pay homage to the memory of the World's Fairs.

The Flushing Bay Promenade is a long-awaited improvement of FMCP. It provides visual access to the bay, and will have a salutary effect on the relationship of residents of Queens and visitors alike to a historic part of the waterfront.

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