Previously owned by the Keyspan Energy, the space now belongs to the communities surrounding Grand Avenue. This 6.5-acre green oasis took 10 years to convert from a former eyesore into a $20 million community green space.
Although the park was already being used and enjoyed by local residents, the official opening and ribbon-cutting was held on Monday, June 7, with government representatives, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Queens Borough President Helen Marshall.
“We have had to be creative by reclaiming industrial sites,” Bloomberg said.
Bloomberg described the gas tanks previously stationed there as “red, massive structures” that made the area infamous. They were gradually dismantled in the 1990s by Keyspan Energy, which sold the space to the city for $1. In November 2005, the area was officially given to the city.
“The best deal in the city,” said Bloomberg. “It’s difficult to recall what this old industrial site use to look like.”
The Parks Department was responsible for constructing the landscape design, which consists of 600 new trees, benches, decorative fountains, long pathways, and innovative features for the playgrounds, with one designated for toddlers and the other for older kids. The design also includes a visible hill, which already cries out for winter sledding.
Athena Kaouris, a parent of two who lives near Grand Avenue is glad to see a park with bigger lawns and walking areas. “We have Crowley park, but it’s still further down from this section,” she said. “I’m just glad I’m down the street and I don’t have to walk far.”
“I live close by, I think its a blessing for this area,” said Stacy Vislocky, who used to frequent a noisy park in the middle of an intersection. “A lot parks do not have this much green area.”
Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe said it was difficult to build the park from scratch, and took the ingenuity of the design and landscaping staff.
Congressman Joseph Crowley acknowledged that a decade ago the site of Elmhurst Park was close to becoming a “box store” and not a recreational space.
“It’s a wonderful victory for the entire community and a wonderful gesture from the city,” he said.
Assemblywoman Margaret Markey knew the community did not want a mall, and when she heard the space was up for sale she decided to survey the community. Some wanted a library or senior housing, but an overwhelming number decided on a park.
“This wonderful park is a tribute to how great things can happen when the government and the community work together,” she said.