The name of this beautifully landscaped triangle located on Utopia Parkway alludes to the lost mythological continent of Atlantis.
It is said that a great natural disaster reduced the advanced utopian society of Atlantis to rubble and submerged its entire mass beneath the sea. Whether the story is fact or fiction remains debatable, but the legend of the submerged island with an ideal society has captured the imagination of people for thousands of years. As is reflected by the name of the parkway, on which this triangle stands, humanity has long been fascinated with the idea of a utopia, an imaginary society of perfection. The word utopia is derived from the Greek roots ou, meaning “not” and topos, meaning “place.” Taken together, they mean “nowhere,” implying the element of fantasy inherent in the idea.
The first to write extensively about the myth of Atlantis was the Greek philosopher Plato (ca. 428 – 327). In two of his dialogues, the Timaeus and the Critias, written around 370 B.C.E, Plato claimed he found evidence of Atlantis in then 200 year-old records of the ancient Greek ruler Solon who reportedly heard the story from an Egyptian priest. Plato described a continent at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean near the Straights of Gibraltar, which was destroyed 10,000 years before his time. Those who believe that the story of Atlantis has a true historical basis point to the existence of the Minoan Civilization, a great and peaceful culture that reigned as far back as 2200 B.C.E. The Minoan island of Santorini, known later as Thera, was home to a huge volcano that erupted in 1470 B.C.E. obliterating everything on the surface of the island. The aftershocks of earthquakes brought tidal tsunamis, which destroyed what was left of Minoan society, thus leading some to believe that Santorini was the “real” Atlantis.
On April 1, 1946, the New York Life Insurance Company bought land near the Queens intersection of Horace Harding Boulevard and 188th Street to develop Fresh Meadows, a residential development. The architectural firm of Voorhees, Walker, Foley, and Smith designed what was termed a “model urban community.” The construction began on July 3, 1946, and after its completion in 1949, the project was praised by renowned urban philosopher and Queens native Lewis Mumford (1895-1990) as “perhaps the most positive and exhilarating example of community planning in the country.” Fresh Meadows maintains the atmosphere of a small town nestled within a great city.
This triangle in northeastern Queens neighborhood of Fresh Meadows is part of the Greenstreets program. Begun in 1986 and revived in 1994, the goal of Greenstreets is to convert paved street properties, like this one, into green spaces. Parks funds the planting of trees and shrubs to beautify the city’s barren spaces. This newly created triangle is home to Eastern Red cedar (Juniperus virginiana), a Butterfly Bush, (Buddleia davidii.) several Star Magnolias (Magnolia stellata), Pachysandra (Pachysandra terminalis), Common Winterberry (Ilex verticillata), Virginia Sweetspire (Itea virginica), Northern Bayberry (Myricaceae pensylvanica), St. John’s Wort (Hypericum), Rugosa Rose (Rosa rugosa), and Bar Harbor Juniper (Juniperus horizontalis ‘Bar Harbor’). This triangle shows that Parks has its own utopian vision of a city filled with well-maintained green spaces.
Learn more about the Greenstreetsprogram.