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Queens Chronicle

City OKs $4.9M for Idlewild Park center

Science and nature complex set to begin construction in fall 2014

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Posted: Thursday, November 7, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 11:33 am, Thu Nov 14, 2013.

People from Brookville to Borough Hall are celebrating the city’s approval of $5.3 million for the construction of a nature center at Idlewild Park in Rosedale.

Borough President Helen Marshall, in a statement released by her office on Monday, said the city’s Office of Management and Budget has approved $4.9 million that Marshall had designated from her capital funds, and an additional $400,000 requested by Mayor Bloomberg.

“The Idlewild Nature Center will be an extraordinary educational resource for children and anyone else who wants to learn about the rich variety of plant and animal life that can be found [there],” Marshall said.

Community activists, led by the Eastern Queens Alliance, have been fighting for years to get a center built on the site. The EQA already hosts regular afterschool science and nature workshops in the park for school-age children.

The center will be built near 149th Avenue and Springfield Lane.

It is slated to have two classrooms, exhibition space, offices and handicapped-accessible bathrooms.

Marshall’s statement said construction is scheduled to start next fall, with completion in 2015.

Idlewild Park covers more than 150 acres and was designated as a city park in 1956, but also served as a Department of Sanitation dump for construction debris between 1970 and 1976.

A great deal of toxic material is known to have been buried there.

The city did some remediation in the 1990s, restoring some of the former wetlands and cleaning up some of the contaminants and soil.

A couple of athletic fields have been constructed in the park, but Dan Hendrick, spokesman for the New York League of Conservation Voters, said much of the land still is not accessible to the public, something he said community leaders in and around Rosedale have been trying to change for years.

“This is one way of doing that,” he said.

Hendrick singled out EQA President Barbara Brown and the association’s rank and file membership for their efforts to keep the city focused on the park.

Brown could not be reached for comment, but has expressed her desire to expand science and nature eduction, as well as park access in general, in numerous interviews with the Chronicle.

Hendrick added that the NYLV also had been involved in a nonpartisan campaign to make protection and enhancement of Idlewild Park an issue in the City Council races voted on Tuesday.

“This is something people from the community have been hoping for a long time,” Hendrick said. “They’ve shown a lot of patience. This is fantastic.”

He also is not overly concerned with the impact that construction would have in an area that preservationists are trying to re-establish as a nature preserve.

The long-term benefits, he said, far outweigh the temporary inconvenience that would be incurred.

Hendrick said the very nature of the necessary construction work would likely require the removal or abatement of some toxic material.

He also said that the know-how and the technology is readily available to minimize and quickly repair any temporary disruptions.

“This is a real net gain,” he said.

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