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Know Your Rights
Source: Queens Chronicle
Subject: Housing & Environmental Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Plans to improve park on the table

An initiative to increase access to Flushing Meadows Park and make it more inviting to users is underway with a public “ideas meeting” set for March 1 at 3 p.m. in the Queens Museum.

Since last December, nearly two dozen area residents have been undergoing training in a community design school to hone their planning skills.

Jose Serrano-McClain, community organizer for the museum, said participant selections were made based on civic leadership, proximity to the park and underserved organizations and residents.
Some of the groups involved include the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park Conservancy, Make the Road NY, Evergreen Community Garden, Immigrant Movement International, Queensboro Hill Civic Association, Forest Hills Civic Association, Asian Americans for Equality and Sustainable Queens.

“The March 1 meeting is sort of a mid-term review on their progress,” Serrano-McClain said.

Members were broken up based on four topics: connectivity, navigation of the park, historic and cultural resources and opportuity for special-needs individuals.

Serrano-McClain said that when the park was designed for the two World’s Fairs there was little thought given to future public access.

Because Flushing Meadows is surrounded by the Grand Central Parkway and Van Wyck and Long Island expressways, it can be difficult for pedestrians to find readily available entrances, especially near Meadow Lake.

Connectivity, he noted, refers primarily to the lack of signage in the park as well as maneuvering around it easily. With several cultural institutions in the park, it is not often clear where they are located.

Related to that, the group is looking into ideas to improve the historic and cultural resources of Flushing Meadows.

The park already has a Playground for All Children, designed for those with special needs, but there is an attempt to expand on that in different locations in the park.

The public is invited to the March 1 session when the activists will present their initial suggestions. A 3 p.m. meeting on April 12, also at the museum and open to the public, will offer final design concepts.

Serrano-McClain is confident that this time the city is listening. “In the past there have been listening sessions where people offered their opinions on issues, but there wasn’t any follow-up,” he said.

“That will not happen this time.”

He said the project will put the refined ideas based on “realistic” goals online in the summer and will hold an exhibit on them at the museum from April 12 to May 3.

He expects a few of the ideas to eventually make it to the capital budget, realizing that funding from the city will be required.

“We hope the group will continue to advocate for the park and we want elected officials to become involved, especially at the April meeting,” Serrano-McClain said.

He said this type of approach has never been done before. “We are looking for ways to activate ideas and I am optimistic some things will happen,” he added.

Looking back to the 1939 World’s Fair, Serrano-McClain said the emphasis on the planning is “what forces are going to shape the park in the next 75 years.”The project is under the direction of the Parks Department, the Queens Museum, located inside Flushing Meadows, and Design Trust for Public Space, a nonprofit group that was instrumental in Manhattan’s High Line project.

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