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Idlewild Park

Idlewild Park

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

Idlewild Park is bounded by Rockaway Boulevard, Springfield Boulevard, 149th Avenue and Brookville Boulevard. Parks acquired the property in three stages between 1956 and 1964. The first parcel was conveyed to Parks through an agreement reached on April 26, 1956, with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. On May 8, 1958, the Board of Estimate assigned additional acreage to the area. Idlewild Park’s size peaked at 224.8 acres on January 27, 1964, through the purchase of private property. On August 24, 1965, Parks ceded 66.1 acres to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for the construction of the Nassau Expressway.

Construction on Idlewild Airport began in 1942 on the former site of Idlewild Golf Course in Queens. Planning for the facility began during the administration of Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia (1882-1947, mayor 1934-45) and called for 1,000 acres of development. The Port of New York Authority assumed the development and operation of Idlewild in 1947, signing a fifty-year lease with the City, and subsequently decided to change the airport's name to "New York International Airport." The "International" was added to differentiate it from "Newark Airport," which sounded similar to "New York Airport" when spoken together. After six years of construction, the airport opened on July 1, 1948 and was dedicated by President Truman on July 31, 1948.

The airport’s design was unique and modern. The site rested more than 15 miles from the center of Manhattan, a distance unprecedented in any U.S. metropolitan area. Because of airline requests, the airport’s runways were laid out in many directions to allow for changing winds. The center of the airport housed terminals and parking lots, which alone encompassed an area greater than LaGuardia Airport.

Idlewild was home to the first jet service offered by an American carrier, Pan American Airways. It was also the first airport to encourage airlines to build their own terminals. The airlines responded to the challenge with vigor, building many modern structures. Most notably, the Trans World Airlines terminal, designed by architect Eero Saarinen, captured the spirit of air travel during the 1960s. During the past 50 years, the airport’s acreage has multiplied five-fold.

Although it continued to be known popularly as "Idlewild," New York International Airport was renamed John F. Kennedy International Airport on December 24, 1963, following resolutions by Mayor Robert F. Wagner, the City Council, and the Commissioners of the Port Authority. The present name commemorates President John F. Kennedy (1917-1963), who was assassinated that year. The former President is best remembered for his attention to civil rights, his published works, and his resolution of the Cuban missile crisis.

Currently, Idlewild Park houses a garage facility for the Department of Transportation (DOT). Parks authorized the construction in an agreement reached in May 1995. Completed in 1996, the facility now houses more than 100 vehicles. As per the agreement, the DOT has cleaned debris from illegal dumping and constructed barriers to prevent future violations.

Park Information

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Idlewild Park Weather

  • Fri
    Sunny
    68°F
  • Sat
    Mostly Sunny
    78°F
  • Sun
    Mostly Sunny
    79°F
  • Mon
    Mostly Sunny
    72°F

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