FIXING UP FORT TOTTEN
Waterfront Update: Part One
For the past year, Parks & Recreation’s ocean and riverfront properties have been expanding and changing, thanks to Mayor Bloomberg’s initiative to improve and expand access to New York City’s waterfronts. Over the next two weeks, The Daily Plant will run a borough-by-borough waterfront round-up with articles about the progress of selected Parks & Recreation projects in each borough.
Today, we begin our waterfront tour in Bayside, Queens, where one of the most anticipated opportunities to expand the City’s waterfront parks is the acquisition of Fort Totten. Located on a peninsula jutting into the Long Island Sound, Bayside’s Fort Totten is an 136-acre historic Army base containing military fortifications dating back to the Civil War. Fort Totten is one of the most intact and self-contained existing army posts and is a tangible reminder of New York City's once-powerful harbor defense system. Although the current site is overgrown and contains some wetland and wooded areas, Fort Totten is not unlandscaped; it’s best characterized as a bucolic military campus featuring turn-of-the-century historic buildings and ornamental landscaping.
The acquisition of Fort Totten first became a possibility when the federal government announced the closure of Fort Totten as an active military base in 1995. The site was then offered to the City at no cost, contingent on the development of an acceptable reuse plan. The Fort Totten Redevelopment Authority, chaired by former Mayor Giuliani and Borough President Shulman, developed a Reuse Plan for the Fort which proposed the construction of a 30-acre Training Academy for the FDNY and the creation of 50 acres of public parkland. Those fifty acres will be officially transferred to Parks & Recreation through two different Public Benefit Conveyance Grant Programs administered by the National Park Service. Parks & Recreation will manage the open space parcels, including the historic battery, through the National Park Service’s Parks and Recreation conveyance. A second program, known as the Historic Monuments conveyance, will be the means of transferring the nonprofit and concession buildings to Parks.
The future parkland site will be developed to include Civil War era fortifications, a 13-acre parade ground with soccer fields, and a North Park area, where 1950’s-era buildings will be cleared to create a beach overlooking the sound. The property also includes an enclave of historic buildings which will be made available to local non-profit groups. To facilitate the development of the new park, Parks & Recreation recently hired Janice Melnick as Northeast Queens Park Administrator. Melnick will not only oversee the management and maintenance of the park, but will also prepare and carry out a Master Plan for the transformation of Fort Totten into a public park. Thanks to funding allocated by State Senator Padavan and Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, Parks & Recreation, will be commencing its first capital project at the fort – making safety improvements to the historic battery.
The waterfront area near Fort Totten has already been developed as parkland. A waterfront Greenway runs past the Fort Totten area, from the neighboring Little Bay Park, through Joe Michael’s "Mile" and ending at Alley Pond Park. Joe Michael’s "Mile" (actually 2.25 miles) passes by the Bayside Marina, one of Queens’ premiere locations for boating and fishing. Although only a small portion of Alley Pond Park is on the bay, the 640-acre parcel contains numerous kettle ponds and wetland areas. When Fort Totten is complete, Queens will be home to one of the City’s most beautiful waterfront stretches.
QUOTATION FOR THE DAY
"It is a sublime thing to suffer and be stronger."
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow