Elmhurst Park has arrived.
The new green space on 57th Avenue near the Long Island Expressway westbound service road opened to the public last week. It had been in the works for at least nine years, with the city agreeing to purchase the property in 2003 from then-KeySpan for $1. The park, which cost more than $20 million, was installed on the six-acre site of the old Elmhurst gas tanks.
The new city space features clean fill, topsoil, perimeter sidewalks, street trees, fencing and gates. It also boasts a small playground, walking paths, a comfort station, a flagpole, a kinetic sculpture, benches, a quiet sitting area and a synthetic-turf play area.
In 2002, the Juniper Park Civic Association, along with elected officials such as former City Councilmen Tom Ognibene and Dennis Gallagher, began the push for a park at the site. That year, the JPCA distributed more than 800 surveys to residents living within a quarter-mile radius of the Elmhurst Gas Tanks. Just over 500 were returned: 367 people wanted a park, 79 wanted a residential building, 18 wanted a mall and 10 wanted a superstore.
At one point, the property was slated to be sold to a developer who would then build a Home Depot, a self-storage facility and a Commerce Bank branch. Community leaders were adamantly opposed to the plans.
In the fall of 2003, Mayor Bloomberg became involved in the battle, even contacting KeySpan CEO Bob Catell to work out a deal, which was reached in November of that year.
“This was a victory for all communities and a victory that should motivate citizens of New York City that they do have something to say about protecting the quality of life of their neighborhoods,” reads a statement on the JPCA website.