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Udall's Park Preserve

The Daily Plant : Friday, April 23, 2004

CLOSE CALL: DISASTER NARROWLY AVERTED IN QUEENS PARK


On Friday, April 6, as the work day wound to a close, fire erupted next to the newly-renovated Kissena Velodrome on Parsons Boulevard and Booth Memorial Avenue in Flushing, Queens. Fortunately, a combination of volunteers, firefighters, and sheer luck prevented the fire from harming anyone or damaging the Velodrome. With work on the Velodrome just recently completed and its April 21 ribbon cutting only two weeks away, the fire could have proven disastrous.

The fire covered an area approximately 300 by 500 feet (about three acres), only 50 or so feet away from the fence surrounding the track. Upon discovery of the fire at about 4:45 p.m., the fire department and the park manager were promptly called to the scene. More than 60 firefighters fought the blaze, bringing it under control within an hour. Had the wind been blowing towards the Velodrome, rather than in the opposite direction, parts of the new vinyl fence would surely have been damaged.

The trouble did not end there. Not only did the fire level acres of brush, but it also unearthed a decades-old municipal dump. Mountains of broken glass and rubber tires were exposed. None of Parks & Recreation’s vehicles have the necessary cleats to traverse the mess—the broken glass would have quickly flattened their rubber tires.

Fortunately for Parks & Recreation, Vinny Oppedisano, owner of Sano Construction, came to the rescue. Mr. Oppedisano has long been a friend to Parks & Recreation, donating his time and heavy-duty equipment without reserve. He has helped remove debris in Udalls Cove and Twin Coves, to name but two instances, and on April 6, he again demonstrated his dedication to New York City’s parks.

Mr. Oppedisano immediately dispatched a 40-ton track loader to the scene. Operating the monstrous vehicle himself, he knocked out the mountains of debris and loaded them onto Parks & Recreation container trucks. "We are very fortunate to have a friend like Vinny to come to Parks’ rescue," said Queens Parks Commissioner Rich Murphy. "He performs work for Parks willingly and with passion, and we are very appreciative of this partnership."

Although the brush fire was unusually large, such fires are a fairly frequent occurence in parks during dry, windy, summer days. Commissioner Murphy estimates that there are about a dozen brush fires in Queens parks alone every summer. These fires normally occur in natural areas, where fire-prone grasses like phragmites abound. In fact, on April 19, there was another brush fire, albeit a much smaller one, in Queens’ Forest Park.

To repair the damage, Commissioner Murphy has been discussing possible solutions with Parks & Recreation’s Natural Resources Group. The area in question consists mostly of phragmites, with mugwort and Japanese knotweed on the perimeter, growing in fill soil. The area is already starting to re-grow. In the long term, the area may be covered in three or more feet of clean sand and seeded with native grasses, wildflowers, shrubs, and trees. 

                                                                                      Written by Dana Rubinstein

QUOTATION FOR THE DAY

"Fierce fire reveals true gold."

Chinese Proverb

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