Parks Department official Nancy Prince, who presented the project at the December 10th CB 5 meeting, announced that the first phase of the two-part master plan to renovate the site has been finished.
Prince said the completed first phase has made a green space of the gas tank site on 57th Avenue and 74th Street in Elmhurst and considerably altered the site's topography as well.
"We wanted to take this site," said Prince, "and make it seem larger than it really is [so] we did what Olmstead did in Central Park."
So far the Parks Department has graded the land, laid topsoil, and planted 489 new trees, said Prince. Most are 25-foot oaks that will grow much larger in the decades to come, said Prince, providing the park with much-needed summertime shade. In a nod to the neighborhood's agricultural history, the parks department planted a crab apple orchard that Prince said should bear fruit by springtime.
"This community had a history of market towns and orchards," said Prince. "So we thought we'd bring something of the history back to the site."
The renovation so far has focused on infrastructure development, said Prince. Besides grading the site - in preparation for a Central Park-style manmade hill - the Parks Department built new sidewalks and a fence around the perimeter, and installed new street lamps to illuminate the park at dusk. The park will be locked at night.
The second phase of the reconstruction will revamp the park's amenities to make it more accessible for the surrounding community, said Prince.
The biggest feature will be a new children's playground. Prince said the playground would have modern play structures as well as more traditional swings and slides. It will also include an area for toddlers with a simple climbing unit and small play houses.
In addition, the Parks Department will install new metal benches, fountains and trash receptacles, pave a newly built network of pathways, and renovate the comfort station.
Finally, said Prince, the Parks Department plans to install its district office in the park's maintenance facility. "There'll be quite a parks presence at this site which is a benefit for the park," Prince said. "It's a big green impact on the community."
CB5 members and residents who attended the meeting had no objections to the proposed plans. Prince said the next renovation phase would begin shortly.