Waterfront community center, new parks among bold proposals for Flushing waterways

In Flushing‘s waterways, one group sees “600 acres of opportunity.”

Spanning the area between LaGuardia Airport, Willets Point, downtown Flushing and Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Flushing Bay has a complex urban ecological system and is used for fishing and recreation. It is also home to the historic World’s Fair Marina, abuts waterfront city parks and serves as the navigational channels for various economic industries.

Inland, along Flushing Creek’s riverbanks, sit railroads, redevelopment projects, Brownfield sites, major roadways and maintenance yards.

In recent decades, heavy stormwater and sewer runoff, industrial and commercial operations along the waterfront and nearby highways and illegal sources of pollution, like dumping and littering, have polluted both of these local waterways. Each water body deals with some of the highest levels of runoff in the entire city, compromising water quality.

Clean water advocacy group Riverkeeper‘s vision for the Flushing waterways — outlined in a 114-page report — is that of a new renewed waterfront destination. The report was released on March 15.

Photo via Riverkeeper proposal
Photo via Riverkeeper proposal

Compiled in partnership with design firm Perkins+Will, the group’s proposals for Flushing Bay include a boathouse and community center, new park, canoe and kayak rental facilities, aesthetic improvements and wetlands restoration — including the construction of a large-scale oyster reef.

Flushing Bay Riverkeeper 3

The new “Gateway Park” would bring a new waterfront park space to the area. Located where 123rd Street meets the waterfront, the park would provide visitors with shoreline access via a fishing pier and boat launch and views of the Manhattan skyline. A sustainable food cafe and overlook tower are also proposed.

The Queens Water Exploration Center, located along the Bay promenade, would bring a “harmony of science, water and sport” with a 40,000-square-foot community structure. The public hub would feature year-round events, including tours and educational seminars, food festivals and boat races.

Flushing Bay Riverkeeper 2

At Flushing Creek, the group proposes a waterfront public park and a pedestrian bridge to connect Willets Point and downtown Flushing. Green infrastructure will need to be installed to facilitate these changes, the group noted.

The new “Creek Park” would feature a park pavilion, wetland gardens, community lawn and a shoreline public walkway, which would encompass much of the creek.

Flushing Creek Riverkeeper

A total of 50 ways to remediate the area were proposed in the report, with each labeled “light,” “heavy” or “aspirational.”

Riverkeeper, along with follow advocacy group Guardians of Flushing Bay, launched the visioning process to formulate the proposal in 2016. The final plan is the product of more than 50 meetings and workshops with community members.

“More trash will wash up, but the community isn’t going anywhere,” project coordinators write in an introduction to the proposal. “Eventually, like Coney Island’s beaches and other once-blighted NYC shorelines before it, Flushing’s waterways will be renewed.”

Plans for improvements at the site at the city and state level are in the works. In 2017, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection began a $34 million project to dredge Flushing Bay, restore existing wetlands and remove deteriorated timber piles. The same year, a long-term plan for further improvements — which have an estimated cost of $1,616 million — were approved by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. The plan is in the design phase.

“Our mission is to renew the Flushing waterfront and make it more accessible and relevant to the broader community,” said Akila Simon, Guardians of Flushing Bay board member. “This plan, and the plans for an ecology center and boathouse, showcases not only how Flushing Waterways can become an engine of economic revitalization, but also a vital, world-class waterway.”

View Riverkeeper’s full proposal by clicking here.

The advocacy group also proposed a series of methods to revitalize Newtown Creek: a federal Superfund site on the Brooklyn/Queens border.