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Queens Chronicle

Greenhouse at Forest Park springs to life

Built in 1905, facility reopens and will grow flowers for city’s parks

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Posted: Thursday, May 3, 2012 12:00 pm

Tucked behind the carousel in Forest Park sits a greenhouse, its panels giving a clear view of rows and rows of thousands of perennials, annuals and tropical plants that are, after five years, making a home at the Woodhaven spot.

The Forest Park greenhouse, built in 1905, reopened on Monday after $3.8 million in renovation work was completed, including replacing the glass panels with thermal ones and installing a computerized system that allows gardeners to control the heating and automatic window shades.

“We’re very fortunate to have this greenhouse, and the opportunity to make the city more beautiful by planting flowers,” city Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe said at Monday’s ceremony marking the reopening.

While it is not definitely known, Benepe said the facility was likely built by Lord and Burnham, a noted greenhouse manufacturer that constructed the New York Botanical Garden at the turn of the 20th century and the United State Botanic Garden in 1933.

The greenhouse will grow about 250,000 plants annually,up from 200,000 before the renovations,which will be shipped to parks around Queens — and much of the rest of the city, including to Flushing Meadows Corona Park for the U.S. Open.

There are a wide range of plants at the site, including begonias, geraniums, sunflowers and numerous others that create explosions of reds, oranges and greens throughout the greenhouse.

The Queens site is the “largest production greenhouse” in the city, according to Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski.

State Sen. Joe Addabo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) allocated $2.4 million for the greenhouse when he was a city councilman, and Borough President Helen Marshall secured $1 million. Mayor Bloomberg allocated the rest of the funding.

Now that the greenhouse is up and running again, Lewandowski said they are hoping to land additional funding for educational and other community programs.

“This is a modern, state-of-the-art greenhouse that will be very efficient,” Marshall said. “ … Generations of Queens residents will come to enjoy this beautiful garden.”

Peter DeLucia, a representative for Addabbo, read a statement from the senator, which emphasized the site’s history.

“It has been an educational source of horticultural information for thousands of individuals, including seniors and students,” DeLucia read.

Students from St. John Evangelical Lutheran School in Glendale joined Monday’s festivities, and their principal, Ben Herbrich, said the greenhouse helps to bring science to life for the pupils.

“We have many classes that use the park, and we observe and learn about plants,” Herbrich said. “This will spark a greater interest in plants.”

Alaysha Delisle and Lydia Valbrun, both 8-year-old students at St. John, agreed with their principal.

“It’s fun coming here because the greenhouse helps us learn how plants grow,” Delisle said.

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