2008-07-25 / Top Stories

Penn Ave Landfills Give Glimpse Into Edgemere's Future

By Nicholas Briano

Aerial views of Penn and Fountain Parks, formerly landfills near Pennsylvania Avenue in Brooklyn, are now being transformed into parkland. Aerial views of Penn and Fountain Parks, formerly landfills near Pennsylvania Avenue in Brooklyn, are now being transformed into parkland. People wondering what will become of the Edgemere landfill, which has been closed since 1991, can get a glimpse of the future by driving along the Belt Parkway near Pennsylvania Avenue where a man-made nature boom is occurring on what was once a place for New Yorkers to dump their trash.

The closed Pennsylvania Avenue landfills have now been renamed Penn Park and Fountain Park in another one of Mayor Bloomberg's environmental efforts to make good, greener use of what was once a safe haven for trash, pigeons and seagulls.

The parks, however, take nearly a decade to build. As a matter of fact, the Pennsylvania Avenue landfills began the conversion process into parks in 2002 and will not be ready to open to the public until at least 2012. They will both include a wealth of different plant and flower species as well as trees and even a man-made wetland. The planting process has already begun and will take several more years to blossom completely until the parks officially open.

The project is planned for the landfill in Staten Island and also here in Edgemere. However, based on the present timetable to construct the parks, Rockaway can't expect the Edgemere park to open until at least 2019, officials estimate.

Penn Park and Fountain Park have breathtaking views of the Manhattan and Rockaway skylines and stand an astonishing 87 and 128 feet above sea level, respectively. The landfill, even though not part of the peninsula, still provides a vision and sneak preview into what Rockaway could expect in the years to come.

Lee Shelley, chairperson of the Citizens Advisory Committee, is a major advocate for the landfill's resoration and host of the annual progress tour. He is excited about the project and optimistic about a 2012 opening, but admits there's still a lot of work to be done.

"Our parks provide a fantastic site," he said. "You can see the Empire State Building, Rockaway and the Verrazano Bridge. We are the only parks that have this kind of height above sea level."

Once the parks open to the public they will be operated by the National Park Service, but the construction process will be the responsibility of the city, Shelley added.

"The city has put 12 feet of dirt on top of the landfill and imported a total of 220 million cubic yards of soil to create what we have here," Shelley said.

The finished product is expected to include a 350-500 capacity parking lot, refreshment stands and food courts and disability friendly facilities. It is also going to include a small nonmotorized boat launch, bicycle paths, an amphitheater area, and education tours and programs.

The parks provide outstanding views in all directions, including the Empire State Building. The parks provide outstanding views in all directions, including the Empire State Building. This beautiful view of Cross Bay Bridge and the JFK air traffic control tower can be seen atop Fountain Park. This beautiful view of Cross Bay Bridge and the JFK air traffic control tower can be seen atop Fountain Park. Wildlife has already adapted to the inviting ecosystem of the two parks that are separated by a narrow body of water Wildlife has already adapted to the inviting ecosystem of the two parks that are separated by a narrow body of water Fountain Park will also include a man-made wetland, which is still in the early stages of development. Fountain Park will also include a man-made wetland, which is still in the early stages of development.

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