In the shadow of World’s Fair anniversary celebrations, a park showing signs of neglect

Posted at 11:09 PM, Apr 02, 2014
and last updated 2014-04-02 23:09:30-04

FLUSHING MEADOWS, Queens (PIX11) – It was the site of both the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs, and now, as the city celebrates the 75th and 50th anniversaries of those expositions, Flushing Meadows Corona Park is becoming the scene of many commemorative events, as well as some physical plant improvements, in relation to the anniversary celebration.  However, many daily users of the park say that away from the main World’s Fair landmarks, their park is in sore need of repairs.

To mark the anniversaries last week, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz called Flushing Meadows Corona Park, “What we all dub ‘The World’s Park.'”

However, some parts of The World’s Park do not look like places somebody would invite the world to see and use.  A few hundred yards from the icon of the World’s Fair, the Unisphere, is a roadway and paved walking and jogging path.  One wouldn’t know it from looking at it, though.  It’s covered in a makeshift reservoir of rainwater runoff so wide and so deep that a couple of flocks of ducks use it as a pond.

About 1000 yards south of that is an intentionally placed body of water that was built as a lake for nautical exhibits for the fair five decades ago.  Now, however, Meadow Lake has paved walking, jogging and cycling paths around it, but most of the walkers, joggers and cyclists avoid those thoroughfares at all costs.  The reason is the thick mud, muck and standing water that cut up the pathways at various points along their miles-long routes.

“This park is in disrepair,” said a jogger who only gave his first name, Gene. “It’s dangerous.  Every time you buy new shoes here, you ruin them when it rains.”

On Thursday, along the roadway and pathway at the northeast end of the lakeside park, the standing water was so deep that metal barricades that park workers had put up around a deep sinkhole were themselves surrounded by a 15 foot wide puddle of water.


When asked if she’d wished if it were repaired, park jogger Juliana Gonzalez replied, “I really, really do.  It will encourage people to come out of their house more often.”

Nobody who was interviewed by PIX11 News expressed negative feelings about the World’s Fair commemorative events, like the announcement on Wednesday of the April 5th opening of an orchid show at the Botanical Gardens next to the park.

The anniversary schedule has brought that event as well as a model train show to the gardens, which have spruced up even more than usual in anticipation of larger crowds.

Even the long neglected New York State Pavilion of the fair, with its iconic, rusting towers, got a new coat of paint, albeit on ground level only.

Parkgoers expressed no criticism for the anniversary improvements, but some said they have a message for the Parks Department.

“I wish that they would cater more to the regular user, the neighborhood user [of the park],” said Vinnie Duran.  “They really haven’t taken care of the community needs.  That’s the biggest problem we have.”

The city’s Parks Department issued the following statement in response to a PIX11 request for comment:

Flushing Meadows Corona Park was built on low-lying marsh land and experiences drainage problems after heavy rains, particularly when they coincide with high tides. NYC Parks has been adding rain gardens, repairing paths and rebuilding shorelines to improve drainage and reduce flooding. We are also working with the Department of Environmental Protection to improve storm drainage and continue to manually pump water  from Flushing Meadows Corona Park after heavy rains.

The City has invested approximately $90 million dollars in Flushing Meadows Corona Park since 2002, including a new recreation center, pool and skating complex, renovated boathouse, new athletic fields and world-class skate park.