Now the Queens Zoo creatures aren’t the only animals you can visit at Flushing Meadows Corona Park — a grove dedicated to retired statues will open this fall.
City Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver announced plans May 27 for the NYC Parks Home for Retired Playground Animals, a “contemplative space” where parkgoers can visit the concrete animals, who had once served as decorative play structures at parks throughout New York, and relish in nostalgia.
“After decades of service to New York City, and with perfect attendance records across the board, it’s time for these Parkies to hang up their hats and enjoy a life of leisure,” Silver said in a statement. “Instead of moving down south to Florida, they will get their place in the sun in Flushing.”
The first residents will be two dolphins, one aardvark, a camel and a frog, all of whom had been living the last several years in storage. The statues will remain in their aged state and will not be retouched or repainted. Parks encourages parkgoers to offer the statues “congratulations and well-wishes” and to take photographs with them, but will not allow any climbing because “they’ve had enough.”
The site is a grassy area located near the Fountain of the Fair’s reflecting pool. Once transformed into the grove, the space will include new plantings, benches and pathways that will allow parkgoers to easily access the area from three separate points.
In addition to creating a quiet, reflective space, the project aims to demonstrate the agency’s enthusiasm for repurposing assets rather than disposing of them. The project will only use existing assets, staff resources, equipment and materials, according to the Parks Department.
The department said that most of the concrete animals throughout city green spaces were added in the 1980s and ’90s. Then-Commissioner Henry Stern tasked designers with incorporating animal art into every new playground project. As time went on, many structures suffered significant wear from overuse and from the elements and some were removed to make room for new features and accessible play space.
The Home for Retired Playground Animals was inspired by the Las Vegas Neon Boneyard, which relocates former neon signs after they’ve been removed from the Strip, and the Ben and Jerry’s Flavor Graveyard in Vermont, which pays homage to the discontinued ice cream flavors.
The project is under community design review, but is on track to debut in the fall.