2006-05-11 / Top Stories

Two Landfills To Become Recreational Sites

By Dara Mormile

The city is capping the landfills at Pennsylvania and Fountain avenues that will eventually be turned into nature trails and for other recreational activities.The city is capping the landfills at Pennsylvania and Fountain avenues that will eventually be turned into nature trails and for other recreational activities. In about three years, if you're looking to enjoy nature with your family and don't want to leave the community, you'll be in luck. The landfills at Pennsylvania and Fountain avenues are being modified for recreational uses and are scheduled to be open to the public by 2009, according to Gateway National Recreation Area officials.

Speaking at an open house last week at Floyd Bennett Field, Gateway Ranger Pete McCarthy said the park will have nature trails, along with biking and hike trails. "But it will not be like your traditional park. It won't be used for active recreational purposes like cricket or baseball games, because of the foundation the landfill is on. It just wouldn't support those types of uses."

Several maps of the site, which cover over 300 acres of land on the northern shore of Jamaica Bay, were displayed at the meeting, held in the Ryan Visitor Center on May 3.

Map of Pennsylvania and Fountain avenue landfills, expected to open to the public in three years.Map of Pennsylvania and Fountain avenue landfills, expected to open to the public in three years. The two landfills are currently being capped and landscaped by the city. Once that process is complete, the National Park Service will determine if the sites meet required environmental standards before public use. Capping will ensure the foundation is strong enough to support activities for which the parks will be used.

As a result of studies on the landfills more than a decade ago, a government-mandated Citizens Advisory Committee was formed which required participation and insight from elected officials and community members about what should be done with the sites.

Committee Chairman Lee Shelley, who was at that meeting and said, "Fountain and Pennsylvania avenue landfills will finally be safe for people and we're really happy with what the city's doing. I believe it took about fourteen years before they started working on the project, but it will be a great advantage to the community."

Needs that must be addressed before the site opens include improving and developing safe access by vehicles, bikes and pedestrians, and preserving its natural habitats.

Another project is the improvement of visitor experiences at historic Floyd Bennett Field, south of the Belt Parkway. The airfield was the city's first municipal airport and later functioned as an important Naval Air Station during and after WW II. It is presently used for various purposes, such as facilities for the Police Department, as well as the Department of Sanitation. Recreational activities like bird-watching, camping, airplane restoration and gardening are also enjoyed on the site.

Unfortunately, said officials, there are no convenient entrances to the field other than one on Flatbush Avenue just north of the Marine Parkway Bridge. With the sports complex expected to open later this year, surveys helped determine which entrances would be the most convenient and traffic-friendly.

"Since the field is being used by so many organizations - and soon the sports complex - we want to make the experience for people coming in a little easier," said Laura Castelli, an engineer with Vanesse Hagen Brustlin Inc., a transportation development organization. "Out of twelve possible entrances around the park proposed by the community from past meetings, there are now four preferred alternative entrances proposed by the Department of Parks as well as Gateway."

In addition to creating signalized left-turns along Flatbush Avenue, there will be two openings near the Ryan Visitor Center and an entrance at the northern end of the park where the sports complex is located. The main entrance will also be operative.

While the project has not yet been funded, perspective entrances will allow for direct access to the specific locations within the park and comply with Federal Highway Administration (FHA) guidelines.

"We have to make sure the interchange isn't backed up and that the external users of Flatbush aren't affected," said Byron Betts of the FHA. "We want to make sure anything that's done is safe - but we also agree with Gateway officials about making the visitor experience more pleasant."

According to McCarthy, park entrances presently closed were never used by the Navy and have been closed for over a decade.

"They just weren't practical openings due to the traffic," he said. "But we also wanted to bring people into the heart of the park and have them experience it in its entirety by having that main entrance as the only means of getting into the park. We want to make the park easier to get to and visitor friendly."

McCarthy also said that even though the sports complex project was proposed a few years ago and will impact on how visitors access the field, transportation studies were funded prior to that project.

"Visitors presently share the entrance with other users and have to go along the runway," he said. "In order to improve the park-like appearance, we need to eliminate the lack of connection between the site and the entrances. It has caused some confusion and detracts from the park's identity."

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