From landfill to parkland: Cuomo dedicates millions to build largest state park in city on old dumping grounds

From landfill to parkland: Cuomo dedicates millions to build largest state park in city on old dumping grounds
New York State Parks

The site of some old trash will soon be Brooklyn’s latest treasure.

Gov. Cuomo is gifting the borough with the city’s largest state park that will occupy a massive federally owned, vacant plot in East New York that once was a toxic landfill at the edge of Jamaica Bay, the pol announced during his annual State of the State address on Wednesday.

“This new state park will be a treasure in the heart of Brooklyn, offering hundreds of acres of beautiful parkland on the shores of Jamaica Bay,” Cuomo said in a press release. “We are committed to ensuring every New Yorker can access the recreational, health and community benefits of open space, and this park will open new doors to wellness for New Yorkers who need it most.”

The state will spend $15 million to transform 407 acres of remediated land — bounded by Pennsylvania and Fountain avenues, the Belt Parkway, and the bay — into a lush green space that will be the largest state-run park in all the five boroughs. The only other exclusively state-run park in the Borough of Kings is Williamsburg’s East River State Park, which is a mere seven acres along the waterfront. And Manhattan’s more-than-500-acre Hudson River Park is managed by a state-and-city partnership.

The East New York meadow will include comfort stations, shade-providing structures, and concession stands, and park-goers can bike, hike, kayak, and fish there when it opens later this year or in early 2019, according to a New York State parks spokesman.

Officials in Albany are also exploring the construction of an amphitheater inside the greensward a few years down the road, along with a bridge that would connect the meadow’s two discontinuous sections, which are separated by a creek, the spokesman said.

The city once used the bifurcate parcel off the Belt Parkway as the site for two toxic-waste dumps known as the Pennsylvania Avenue and Fountain Avenue landfills, which opened in 1956 and 1961. Officials closed the two former dumping grounds in the early ’80s, but they infamously continued to pile up with trash and, sometimes, the dead bodies of mob victims, according to a New York Times report.

Workers from the city’s Department of Environmental Protection cleaned up the National Parks Service-owned land, which is part of the Gateway National Recreation Area, as part of a nearly $200-million project at the turn of the 21st century with the goal of one day making the waterfront parcel a functioning public green space.

The state will essentially lease the hilly terrain from the Feds so it can run the park, and the city will continue to manage its on-site infrastructure that mitigates methane release from the old landfills, the state parks spokesman said.

But the massive new green space still won’t take the title of largest in the borough — that superlative stays with Marine Park, a sprawling 503-acre meadow with a salt marsh, hiking trails, new tennis courts, and state-of-the-art bocce court.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Seaside jog: State honchos also hope to build a bridge that would connect the two parcels of land.
New York State Parks