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Fort Totten Park

The Daily Plant : Tuesday, December 6, 2005


Photo by Daniel Avila

On Monday, December 5, Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe joined Congress Member Gary Ackerman, State Senator Frank Padavan, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, and numerous community activists to cut the ribbon on renovations to the historic battery at Fort Totten Park in Queens.

"This is another great day for Fort Totten," said Commissioner Benepe. "Today, we open up some of our City’s greatest views and most fascinating history to the public; next year, we will break ground on a full-service visitor center."

The $740,000 site safety renovation was the first part of a two-phase project at the battery, and opens the Civil War-era battery to the public for the first time since the park’s opening. Funding was provided by State Senator Padavan, Borough President Marshall, and Council Member Tony Avella, along with a grant from the New York State Northeastern Historic Preserve Commission. The project concentrated on safety and accessibility, and included lighting, handrails, drainage, and new blue stone. Phase II, funded by an $850,000 allocation from Borough President Marshall, will renovate the museum building and ordinance yard that are connected to the battery via a Civil War-era tunnel.

"The battery is the most unique fortification in the Northeast, and it should be open to the public," said State Senator Padavan, who has long advocated for the transformation of Fort Totten into a public park. "Our children should be coming here and learning about it."

Congress Member Ackerman spoke about Fort Totten’s history as an Army base, and noted that the fort sent more members of the military to the First Gulf War than any other fort in the United States. Borough President Marshall compared the site’s appeal to that of the Cloisters, another flagship attraction in the Bronx.

The City of New York named the Fort Totten battery a Landmark in 1974 for its exemplary military architecture; now that the site is open to the public, Parks will apply for National Landmark status.

In 1857, the United States government purchased this property from the Willets family and began construction on the "Water Battery." Had work proceeded as planned, the battery would have been a five-sided, four-tier structure reaching deeply inward. Instead, advancing naval technology during the Civil War rendered this system obsolete, and only two tiers of the two sides facing the water were completed.

Construction of earthen batteries began in 1870 by backfilling over the parade level of the Water Battery, necessitating a tunnel for movement of munitions. Work was halted in 1876, once again leaving the new fortifications incomplete. Fort Totten Park, a 49.5-acre property overlooking the Long Island Sound, was turned over to Parks & Recreation by the National Parks Service in 2004 and opened to the public as a park by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in June of this year.



"There is nothing in the world more beautiful than the forest clothed to its very hollows in snow. It is the still ecstasy of nature, wherein every spray, every blade of grass, every spire of reed, every intricacy of twig, is clad with radiance."

William Sharp

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