Will a ‘KissenaWay’ come to Flushing?

Activists, residents walk path through parks they hope future trail will link

As the crow flies, greenery and vegetation create a reasonably easy path along the Brooklyn-Queens Greenway, from Fort Totten Park on Little Neck Bay to Coney Island in Brooklyn.

Landlubbers, however, must brave treacherous stretches of concrete jungle to navigate this borough’s stretch of the Brooklyn-Queens Greenway by foot or bicycle. Supporters of the Eastern Queens Greenway want to connect the borough’s green dots along that route by securing safer intersections between parks, upgrading pathways through existing parks, and attracting more visitors to deter crime.

To that end, nearly 50 motivated activists, citizens and nature lovers trekked last Friday from the Queens Botanical Garden through the wilds of Kissena Corridor Park and on to the Kissena Park lake on the border of the latter park’s golf course.

“If you build a greenway through here and make it more accessible, there’s more eyes on it,” said Laura Shepard, the walk’s organizer and a member of the Eastern Queens Greenway group. The organization’s mission is to create a family-safe route from Flushing Meadows Corona Park to Alley Pond Park and the Joe Michaels Mile.

The EQG group wants there to be a path used by walkers and cyclists called the “Kissena Way” linking Flushing Meadows, Kissena Park and Kissena Corridor Park

The mild weather and fall colors created an ideal backdrop for enticing the walkers to imagine more visitors enjoying the great outdoors.

Along the way, activists, area residents and Borough Historian Jack Eichenbaum educated the group about the history and potential future of the parks and the Eastern Queens Greenway.

The walk started at the Main Street gate of the Queens Botanical Garden in Flushing. The markings at the wide street crossing to Kissena Corridor Park are faded and the markings for bicycles are nonexistent. To use a clearly marked crossing, one must follow the sidewalk uphill to cross toward New York-Presbyterian/Queens Hospital at 56th Avenue and Main Street.

A meditation garden is planned for that entrance to Kissena Corridor Park, which the EQG activists believe will help draw more attention to the Kissena Corridor and entice more people to use the rest of the park. Farther in, the trail leads through woods that create the illusion of being far out in the countryside. Unfortunately, its isolation provides opportunities for criminals and litterers.

Cyclist Barbara Gillespie and others brainstormed about finding community groups that might be willing to help the Kissena Corridor Park Conservancy maintain the meditation garden.

At one junction of pathways, a large pile of garbage and discarded household items, including a mattress, had been deposited.

Flushing resident Sheena Pachon pointed to a rock in Kissena Corridor Park that she believed to be painted with gang markings. She said the isolated areas along the park’s pathway have regrettably been the scene of frequent crimes, including rapes, recently and historically. Her goal is to secure sustainable solar lighting for the park with the aim of supporting the natural environment while deterring crime.

Shepard said improved pathways and adjacent landscaping, with Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible paths and proper lighting, could attract a higher volume of bicyclists, walkers and wheelchair users to the parks.

The group hiked past the Kosmos Soccer field and crossed to Kissena Park proper by crossing Kissena Boulevard where it intersects Rose Avenue, another wide intersection with no bicycle markings.

The intersection is known as a place where cars turn aggressively. Eichenbaum said the site is, and has been for more than a century, a transportation corridor. It had been a stop on the Flushing Central Railroad, which was built in the 1870s to provide access to Garden City, which was then under development farther out on Long Island.

The hikers wound down a quiet path at the foot of hills in the park, which Eichenbaum said had been, for three generations, a nursery owned by the Parsons family. That name now lives on as the moniker for Parsons Boulevard.

The walk paused at Kissena Park Lake, where ducks, geese and human families were spending the afternoon, and ended at the intersection across from the Kissena Park Golf Course. Again, Shepard noted that an intersection upgrade and a new path constructed along the edge of the golf course property across the street could create an enticement for bikers.

Eastern Queens Greenway’s organizers urged participants to speak to their electeds or sign a petition on the group’s web site to help get the project support and funding.