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Flushing park path fights heavy flooding

Photo by Joe Anuta
By Joe Anuta

At first glance, the newly opened bike and walking path in the borough’s largest park might seem like just another pedestrian thoroughfare, but the underlying science behind its construction will alleviate chronic flooding along the eastern edge of Meadow Lake.

Honchos from the city Parks Department cut the ribbon Friday on a strip of jet black asphalt that runs for about 900 feet along the shore in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

“Sustainable designs like this one are really important with what we are doing going forward,” said Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe.

The pathway hugs the shoreline of the lake but also runs parallel to a nearby parking lot.

During heavy rainfalls, water would fall onto parking areas and run off into the grassy swath between it and the lake, forming large pools and flooding the previous pathway.

The new design directs flood water to low lying areas on the side of a raised path.

Several clusters of grasses and hearty shrubs were planted along the path where the water will flow. The greenery will act as a natural filter, catching toxins and particles in the water as it trickles through the ground into the lake.

But if the flow becomes too great for Mother Nature to handle, Parks also installed a new catch basin in the middle of each garden that can funnel rainwater directly into the lake, whereas before it had no outlet and would stand stagnant, according to Jean Silva, president of the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park Conservancy.

“It was flooded constantly,” she said. “It took days to get the water off.”

The problem is not uncommon in the park and surrounding areas, according to Benepe, who said large portions of Queens were built in low-lying flood plains.

During heavy rain, much of the water flows into the city’s antiquated sewer system, which often fills to capacity. But rain gardens like the one installed along the path can also help mitigate flooding by absorbing the run-off instead, according to Benepe.

“We have to figure out ways to deal with the storm water and to be a more sustainable society in general,” he said.

The pathway was funded in large part by City Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows), who allocated $1 million toward its construction. Mayor Michael Bloomberg also chipped in about $270,000, according to Parks.

Several more rain gardens are slated for the park in order to capture rainwater flowing off other parking lots around the lake and the Van Wyck Expressway.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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