Last Wednesday, Parks Department officials and community leaders broke ground on the $4.5 million project, which received funding from the mayor’s office.
The project will reconstruct the 111th Street entrance to the park between 53rd and 56th avenues, also known as the Henry Hudson entrance. Parks will build a central plaza with new sidewalks, wider pedestrian routes and protected walkways.
There will also be expanded planting areas, including a line of shade trees and low evergreen shrubs. The construction is expected to be complete by next spring.
“This flagship park is in for a tremendous transformation,” said Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver.
In 2016, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park was chosen as one of eight sites citywide that would receive an upgrade through the Parks Without Borders initiative, which aims to improve park entrances, edges and adjacent spaces.
First announced in November 2015, Parks Without Borders fielded more than 6,000 nominations for 691 parks. In the end, the agency chose eight parks to share $40 million in funding from the mayor on the initiative.
Other Parks Without Borders projects are Fort Greene Park and Prospect Park in Brooklyn, Hugh Grant Circle and Virginia Park in the Bronx, Jackie Robinson Park and Seward Park in Manhattan and Faber Park in Staten Island.
Silver said the project will make Flushing Meadows-Corona Park more open, welcoming and easier to access.
“At the Henry Hudson entrance, there’s little to indicate that it’s part of the park at all,” he said.
Park administrator Janice Melnick said the parking lot along the park’s edge on 111th Street was busy, but not well managed.
“If you came here on any given day, there would be empty parking spaces, but you couldn’t get to them because buses were lined up,” she said.
Melnick noted that it was hard for parents with strollers or people in wheelchairs to access the park.
Jean Silva, president of the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park Conservancy and a member of Community Board 6, moves around in an electric mobility scooter. She said she’s been waiting a long time for ADA accessible ramps that allows her to get into the park.
“The problem was trying to manipulate going up and over curbs, going down hills,” Silva said. “When you’re in a wheelchair or even in a scooter, the vibrations you get by bumping over rocks, pebbles and stones, that’s really detrimental to your health.”
Melnick added that the trees will beautify the entrance for the millions of visitors who come every year.
“It’s going to make a grand entrance so that as you walk into the parking lot, the park will be laid out in front of you,” she said. “And you’ll know you’re entering Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.”