Kissena Corridor Park

Kissena Corridor East

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

The word “kissena”, which frequently appears in Flushing place names, means “ít is cold” in the Chippewa language (the actual natives in the area were the Mantinecocks Tribe). It is generally believed that Samuel Bowne Parsons (1819-1906), a horticulturist and amateur student of Native American lore, bestowed the name on Lake Kissena where his nursery was located. His son, Samuel Parsons, Jr. (1844-1923), a landscape designer, used plantings from his father’s nursery when he helped Vaux and Olmsted design Central Park. Parsons, Jr. designed or redesigned many of this City’s parks, notably Riverside and Morningside Parks, and the Broadway Malls after they had been torn out to build the IRT subway. He was also a pioneer in the creation of playgrounds as parks dedicated to the play of children, particularly in crowded tenement districts of the city.

Kissena Corridor Park connects three parks in eastern Queens: Flushing Meadows-Corona, Kissena, and Cunningham Parks. Louis Risse, the chief engineer of New York City’s Topographical Bureau first proposed the construction of Kissena and Cunningham Parks in 1900, suggesting that the City purchase the Parsons nursery to create Kissena Park. The map for the project measured 27 feet by 31 feet, and included plans for other parks, boulevards, and highways. It was on display at the Paris Exposition of 1900 where it was one of the most popular attractions. The City purchased the nursery in 1906 and bought land parcels for Cunningham Park, originally named Hillside Park, in 1928.

The last park of the three, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, was once the site of an ash landfill. Robert Moses (1888–1981, Parks Commissioner 1934-1960), who held several additional city and state positions, put the land to use as the site of the 1939-40 World’s Fair, but the property sat vacant after the fair ended. From 1946 to 1950, it served as the temporary headquarters of the United Nations, and was home to the World’s Fair again in 1964-65 under Moses’s leadership. In 1967 it was officially designated parkland, becoming a permanent part of the park system and the largest park in Queens.

Kissena Corridor Park was a result of Moses’s efforts to develop an “emerald necklace” that would connect a continuous series of green spaces stretching 4.5 miles across Queens. The corridor was assembled in pieces beginning as early as 1938, when the city acquired the former Vanderbilt Motor Parkway, which is now the eastern edge of Kissena Corridor Park. Most of the land was purchased between 1944 and 1948, and the eastern portion follows the right-of-way of the former Creedmoor branch of the Long Island Rail Road. Additional land was created by filling in wetlands through the Department of Sanitation’s landfill program. Consolidation of the park continued during the fifties when some of the streets crossing the park were closed.

This 45.937 acre eastern portion of Kissena Corridor Park was always partially separated by Horace Harding Boulevard, and its conversion into the Long Island Expressway removed a portion of the park in 1951 and created a greater division between the parts of the park corridor on each side. The Long Island Expressway was another project headed by Robert Moses, acting this time in his role as chairman of the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, which undertook many of the highway projects in New York City. In 1954 a little more land was removed from the park near the expressway to accommodate Public School 179. The corridor now continues at this point as a narrow strip behind the school and a pedestrian walkway over the expressway.

Some portions of Kissena Corridor Park are left as natural areas, while others are developed as playgrounds and ballfields. The corridor also provides a continuous bicycle path that ties the different parks in eastern Queens together, making them all more accessible to the communities they serve.

Directions to Kissena Corridor Park

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