East New York

The next Prospect Park? Massive 407-acre state park coming to Jamaica Bay in East New York

Will be third largest park in Brooklyn

January 8, 2018 By Scott Enman Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A massive 407-acre park in East New York, the third largest in Brooklyn, will open to the public in 2019. Shown: A before and after of a grassy area in the park. Renderings and photos courtesy of New York State Parks

Shunned as the bowels of Brooklyn, Jamaica Bay has long been chastised as polluted marshland, a toxic waterway below the shadows of planes sloping steeply toward Kennedy Airport.

One section of the belittled bay, however, will undergo a transformation over the next year as an enormous 407-acre park will sprout along its shores on the former Pennsylvania Avenue and Fountain Avenue landfills in East New York.

The area, which has never been open to the public, was operated by the New York City Department of Sanitation from 1956 to 1983, before it was deeded to the National Park Service as part of the Gateway National Recreation Area in 1974.

The new parkland, which will open next year, was announced in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2018 State of the State on Wednesday.

The area will include biking paths, hiking trails and water-based activities such as fishing, kayaking and environmental education events. Restrooms, shade structures and concessions will also be part of Phase One.

Phase One will be funded by a $15 million state initiative that will make available 3.5 miles of waterfront.

Phase Two of the plan will create an amphitheater, environmental education facilities and a bridge between the two landfills.

“This new state park will be a treasure in the heart of Brooklyn, offering hundreds of acres of beautiful parkland on the shores of Jamaica Bay,” Cuomo said.

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“We are committed to ensuring every New Yorker can access the recreational, health and community benefits of open space, and this park will open new doors to wellness for New Yorkers who need it most,” he continued.

The new park, which has not been named yet, will be the largest state park in Brooklyn. The only other state park in Kings County is the modest 11-acre East River State Park in Williamsburg, primarily known for its expansive views of the Manhattan skyline. State Parks operates a total of eight parks in New York City.

It will be the second state park opened by Cuomo in the five boroughs. Cuomo dedicated the four-acre Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms State Park on Roosevelt Island in 2012.

The new park in East New York will be the third largest park in Brooklyn after Marine Park (798 acres) and Prospect Park (526 acres), both of which are operated by the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation.

In comparison, Central Park boasts 843 acres, while Brooklyn Bridge Park offers 85.

“State Parks is excited by the opportunity to serve these traditionally park-poor neighborhoods in Brooklyn,” Commissioner of New York State Parks Rose Harvey said.

“A natural preserve in the backyard of Brooklyn’s 2.6 million people features open rolling hills and 3.5 miles of waterfront, connecting city and nature, and asphalt to meadows,” she continued.

In 2009, more than 1.2 million cubic yards of clean soil was dispersed on the East New York site, and more than 35,000 trees and shrubs were planted in the area, which has attracted local wildlife.

The latest state park is part of Cuomo’s larger plan to create 34 new or improved parks, community gardens, playgrounds and recreation centers within a 10-minute walk for every Central Brooklyn resident.

Councilmember Inez Barron, who represents the district where the park will be built, said she looks forward to “collaborative planning” between Cuomo, elected officials and the community.

She hopes to continue discussions about creating a science center, a solar panel network, wastewater treatment technology and waste-to-energy infrastructure in the park.

“A $15 million allocation, would not be sufficient, even as an initial investment, to support the broad scope of the ideas that our community has envisioned,” Barron told the Brooklyn Eagle. “Therefore we are looking for a greater allotment of money that would be supportive of our vision and plan for a state park.”

Jamaica Bay was once a hub for oysters, where they were harvested for consumption, according to Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers. Each oyster had the ability to filter 40 gallons of water per day, which kept the bay clean.

The mollusks, however, died off in the early 20th century due to sewage entering the waterway.

Recently, however, 50,000 oysters were introduced into Jamaica Bay to improve water quality and protect the wetlands as part of the Billion Oyster Project in September 2016.

It was the single largest installation of breeding oysters in New York City.

Follow reporter Scott Enman on Twitter.

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