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Flushing Meadows Corona Park

World's Fair Marina

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.
Although the World's Fair Marina was named in 1964, the site has hosted international visitors since English settlers first arrived here in the 17th century. Today, the World's Fair Marina is one of the larger public recreational boating facilities on the eastern seaboard, capable of harboring over 250 vessels on nearly 4,000 feet of dock in Flushing. It was a project of Parks Commissioner, and later Wold's Fair president, Robert Moses (1888-1981).

This area was once inhabited by Matinecock Native Americans, who took advantage of the bay's seafood and marsh grasses. The European settlers arrived here in 1640, establishing the colonial settlements of Newtown and Flushing. During the American Revolution, the Lent Farmhouse stood on this site, 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. But by the 1920s, the two 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.

Robert Moses had a different vision. Flushing Meadows is the geographical heart of New York City, and Moses imagined a grand park, one that would also connect to his planned Kissena Corridor and allow him to extend the Grand Central Parkway to the Triborough Bridge. When the 1933 election of Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia (1882-1947) ousted Tammany from power, Moses became the first citywide parks commissioner and he went to work on his vision. He approached the New York State Legislature for funds, and Albany agreed to pay for the Grand Central Parkway extension - and that extension only. Moses was able to move 50,000,000 cubic yards of trash, just enough to create a road through the mountains of ash.

In the 1930s, when Jackson Heights engineer Joseph F. Shagden was attempting to organize the 1939-40 World's Fair, Moses saw a chance to create the great park he had already planned. In exchange for allowing the fair to take place on the Meadows, Moses demanded permanent improvements that fit his blueprints: underground utility lines, thousands of trees, two lakes, and a boat basin - the birth of the World's Fair Marina- although in 1939, it did not have so grand a name.

When the 1964-65 World's Fair was being planned, also on Flushing Meadows, Moses was still commissioner. He resigned his 26-year post to become president of the fair, and continue the project which had interested him for decades. In his words, "Visitors to…an exposition, carry away indelible impressions…and pleasant memories, but what finally remains in the ground when the pageant has faded…and the park planners have gone to work is of more concern to the next generation than any spectacle, however gorgeous." An improved marina was part of his plan.

Where a boat basin existed, Moses envisioned a marina which would "be the boatman's gateway to the city…another example of successful Federal, State, City, World's Fair and private cooperation." He petitioned the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to deepen the channels and anchorage of Flushing Bay, contracted with Marinas of the Future, Inc., to redesign the marina and increase its capacity, and constructed a wave-break dike extending southward from LaGuardia Airport with City, Federal, and World's Fair Corporation funds. Approximately 200 million cubic yards of silt were removed from the bay, and when the marina opened, it had space for 800 boats.

For many years, the marina was managed by a private concessionaire, but Parks & Recreation reclaimed the facility in 1999. Today, it is a destination for recreational boaters from around the world, and offers a full range of amenities, including 24-hour security, boat maintenance and storage, information on boating and boating safety, and access to Shea Stadium, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, and LaGuardia Airport. With its roots firmly in New York City history, the World's Fair Marina will continue to serve residents and international visitors for years to come.

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