Queens Botanical Garden

Queens Botanical Garden stands out as a unique natural experience in New York City. Located between Flushing Meadows Corona Park and Kissena Corridor Park, in Flushing, New York, Queens Botanical Garden is home to numerous garden spaces and other community centered facilities and programs. Throughout the decades, Queens Botanical Garden has evolved and grown into a prominent feature for the borough of Queens. The grounds focus on connecting visitors with the natural world to best preserve the tranquil atmosphere that the grounds exude.

Queens Botanical Garden is jointly funded by both public and private efforts to provide the best experience possible for guests. By doing so, Queens Botanical Garden has settled into the 39-acre (approximately 16 hectare) sanctuary it is today. Easily accessible via public transit, by either taking the No. 7 subway or Long Island Rail Road to Main Street, Flushing and then taking the Q20 or Q44 bus eight blocks south (which could also be walked), or taking the Long Island Expressway east to exit 23, Main Street and traveling north to Dahlia and Main.[1] Admission is charged from April to October,[2] to help cover expenses in addition to other funding sources. Though special hours, seasonality, and available programs are observed, so do plan accordingly if deciding to visit.

The 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair in Queens included a horticultural exhibit known as “Gardens on Parade” that introduced the first resemblance to the modern-day Queens Botanical Garden. The original five-acre variety gardens sponsored by Hortus Inc.,[3] was one among dozens of pavilions and buildings sprawling the fair complex. Below is a map of the 1939-40 World’s Fair where Gardens on Parade can be found at the top left corner of the map, highlighting the scale of the World’s Fair and the establishment of a designated park space that was distinctive and inclusive, making it a popular exhibit of the Fair among visitors.

Map drawn by H.W. Arnold and Amy W. Wells, found in Andrew Wood’s, New York’s 1939-1940 World’s Fair, (2004).

The above map of the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair depicts the site of the original Gardens on Parade, circled in red. It was one of the few exhibits to remain after the World’s Fair conclusion. This map was featured in the Fair Guide Book, as well as a YMCA handout distributed at the Fair.[4]

Map of Hortus Inc. horticultural exhibition at the New York World’s Fair. Souvenir Book Collection, Queens Botanical Garden.

Above, is a detailed view of the layout of the original Gardens on Parade exhibit. Many gardens were on display to attract over 2.5 million guests.[5] Out of all the exhibits at the 1939-40 World’s Fair in Flushing, Queens, a strong following amassed behind the Gardens on Parade even after the Fair officially closed. The formation of the Queens Botanical Society in 1946,[6] proved an essential influence in the continuation of the mission to display the natural world as envisioned by Hortus Inc., it attracted people seeking natural landscapes and gardening enthusiasts alike. With the Flushing and larger Queens community voicing their affections and support for the continuation of a botanical space, the Gardens on Parade exhibit left a lasting influence on the need for leisurely public recreation spaces and reprieve from the hectic commotion of city life.

A relocation of Queens Botanical Garden was prompted in preparation for the 1964-1965 World’s Fair, which had acquired the land lease for the previous 1939-40 World’s Fair site. A new lot was designated for the Queens Botanical Garden approximately a mile east in current Kissena Corridor Park as Robert Moses, the New York City Park Commissioner, sought to expand the park facilities in the area with the addition of the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair.[7] This aligned with Moses’s midcentury urbanistic vision of transforming the city into a curated metropolis. Newspaper coverage from September 1961 communicates the approved plan to relocate “the existing Queens Botanical Garden located between 131st Street and the Flushing River… to a site in the vicinity of Main Street, south of Dahlia Avenue. Spending $341,700 for partial final grading, utilities, pavements and planting,”[8] for the anticipated 1964-65 World’s Fair. With community support and government funding, Queens Botanical Garden was successful in expanding their outreach and physical presence by moving to their current Main Street address. Though it in part to the progressive city planning agenda that Robert Moses championed as “at the first fair these ideas had not yet widely pervaded the general culture of the lives of New Yorkers. In the generation that elapsed between the fairs, many of these principles were actively implemented in cities across America, and particularly in New York,”[9] due to the efforts of city and state governments overseeing these projects. A more modernized American relied on infrastructure to maintain development and public needs.

The borough of Queens was no stranger to rapid evolution and change, as more emphasis was placed on pleasing local and visiting populations. Queens Botanical Garden is a more recent addition to the city’s recreational scene as it was “the youngest and the smallest of the City’s three botanical gardens” even after of its relocation in preparation for the subsequent 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair. Other similar venues were The Bronx and New York Botanical Gardens,[10] which were larger in size, though not as reserved as Queens Botanical Garden. This allowed the Queens to be recognized for having its own botanical paradise for city-goers to take reprieve and strengthened the affinity for public spaces by facilitating communal relationships in the more intimate setting.

Having reached its permanent home, Queens Botanical Garden nurtured growing environmental sentiments as an excursion for adults and amusement for children to explore nature. Over fifty years of active involvement with youth has focused attention to fostering curiosity and interaction with nature. Queens Botanical Garden has lived up to its mission of “celebrating people, plants, and cultures through gardens, educational programs, and environmental awareness.”[11] A July 1972 newspaper article from the New York Times detailed the popular status of Queens Botanical Garden having 350,000 visitors annually, fostering “educational benefits for the children are unbounded, and their involvement helps the garden grow…and expand. We want the children to feel like they are part of the garden. We want them to grow with it.”[12] Better equipped with precious real estate to address the growing environmental movement of the 1970s, Queens Botanical Garden resonated the social and environmental reform movements of the 1960s and 1970s. These offerings for all ages and cultures are even more numerous today, so check their event calendar for upcoming programs and workshops.

Multiple efforts were successful in improving Queens Botanical Garden and its amenities from its humble origins. Since moving in 1964, Queens Botanical Garden has continued to see that its facilities meet the needs of the diverse population of Queens. This came to fruition with the first and most recent renovation in proposed in the early 2000s. Devised as the Queens Botanical Garden Master Plan, it sought to renovation and update the entire campus. Including a new visitor center, updated green infrastructure, and the creation of more unique spaces to be enjoyed and more improvements.[13]  Funded by the New York City and state governments as well as privately raised funds through the Queens Botanical Garden Society and other donors; the investment was successful with its completion in bringing Queens Botanical Garden into the 21st century conservation movement. It presently features sustainable design elements that are prime examples for sustainable living systems that restores the natural integrity of the water and soil. The visitor center is also a community learning center that was the first public building in New York City to meet the highest Platinum LEED standard of green buildings.[14] Clearly, Queens Botanical Garden is genuine and attentive in their approach and appreciation for the natural world. Achievements in implementing practical environmental solutions on premise such as rainwater collection and energy efficient buildings embolden visitors alike to see the importance of living purposefully and inclusively with each other and our environment. Visiting can help everyone to see the balance that can be maintained living in a progressive society.

Image produced by Queens Botanical Garden circa 2015.

Above is an image of the new Queens Botanical garden Entrance Plaza, [15]. With much to explore and see, one can forget about the commotion and bustle of everyday life. To the right, obscured by greenery is the Visitor Center.

More recently, green spaces such as Botanical Gardens and public parks have become icons for the growing environmental movement. Embodying conservation and sustainable values, American communities, and businesses are mobilizing to protect natural land so that it can be enjoyed by future generations. In part of municipal and private funding, Queens Botanical Garden continues to provide exceptional educational services to thousands of residents and visitors while representing the best that the borough of Queens has to offer recreationally. By renewing their commitment to greater community services, Queens Botanical Gardens has affirmed these values, leading an example, which reflects what Queens residents have held dear for decades. Environmental stewardship and support continue to draw attention to crucial causes today with a new push to decarbonize and be mindful of our everyday interactions with our surroundings.

As New York City continued to build upwards, a new vision emerged blending the rising metropolis into functional green space to balance the needs of the borough at ground level. Queens Botanical Garden for decades has served an essential role in diversifying the cityscape and bringing together the vibrant cultures of Queens. The Queens Botanical Garden has remarkably met the communities’ values and desires recreationally and culturally. With the greater area home to other parks and recreational opportunities, Queens Botanical Garden is unmatched in its role of a botanical oasis attracting everyone, from students to tourists and residents. Not too far from other famous landmarks and transportation, Queens Botanical Garden is worth the visit if you are in the area. Appreciation of the natural world is renewed with a visit where Queens Botanical Garden is constantly enriching the land and community with modern ecological experiences and values that bring together the ever-growing Queens community and those seeking to explore the greater New York City area.

 

 

Bibliography

 

“Board OK Given More Fair Projects.” In New York State Digital Library. Long Island Star-Journal, September 23, 1961. https://fultonhistory.com/Newspaper%2014/Long%20Island%20City%20NY%20Star%20Journal/Long%20Island%20City%20NY%20Star%20Journal%201961/Long%20Island%20%20City%20NY%20Star%20Journal%201961%20-%200402.pdf.

 

Conservation Design Forum, and Atelier Dreiseitl. “Queens Botanical Garden – Flushing, New York.” The Master Plan – Queens Botanical Garden. Queens Botanical Garden Society, 2002. https://queensbotanical.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/masterplan_complete.pdf.

 

Goldman, Ari L. “Queens Garden Is for the Young.” The New York Times. The New York Times, July 16, 1972. https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1972/07/16/91336430.html?pageNumber=84.

 

Queens Botanical Garden, “Web Page,” April 4, 2022. https://queensbotanical.org/.

 

Rosenfeld, Lucy D., and Marina Harrison. “HOW TO DO IT YOURSELF: Demo-Gardens, Programs, and New Ideas at the Queens Botanical Garden, Flushing.” In Exploring Nature’s Bounty: One Hundred Outings Near New York City, 40–41. Rutgers University Press, 2012. http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt19rmb2q.23.

 

Uva, Katie. “1964 and the State of the City.” In World’s Fairs in the Cold War: Science, Technology, and the Culture of Progress, edited by Arthur P. Molella and Scott Gabriel Knowles, 77–84. University of Pittsburgh Press, 2019. https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctvpbnqjx.10.

 

Wikimedia Commons contributors, “File:Entrance Plaza, Queens Botanical Garden.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, author Queensbotanicalgarden, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Entrance_Plaza,_Queens_Botanical_Garden.jpg&oldid=503617394. (CC BY 2.0)

 

Wood, Andrew F. New York’s 1939-1940 World’s Fair. Arcadia Publishing, 2004. Google Scholar. https://scholar.google.com/citations?view_op=view_citation&hl=en&user=GkE89pIAAAAJ&citation_for_view=GkE89pIAAAAJ:WF5omc3nYNoC

 

[1] Lucy Rosenfeld and Marina Harrison, Exploring Nature’s Bounty: One Hundred Outings Near New York City, (New Brunswick, NJ, Rutgers University Press, 2012), 40.

[2] Queens Botanical Garden, “Main Web Page” April 4, 2022. https://queensbotanical.org/.

[3] Conservation Design Forum, and Atelier Dreiseitl. “Queens Botanical Garden – The Master Plan.” (Flushing, NY, 2002), 102.

 

[4] Andrew Wood, New York’s 1939-1940 World’s Fair,  (Arcadia Publishing, 2004), 11-12.

[5] Conservation Design Forum, and Atelier Dreiseitl. “Queens Botanical Garden – The Master Plan.” (Flushing, NY, 2002), 102.

[6] Ari Goldman, “Queens Garden Is for the Young” in New York Times (NY, July 16, 1972), 84.

[7] Katie Uva, “1964 and the State of the City”, in World’s Fairs in the Cold War (University of Pittsburg Press, 2019), 80.

[8] “Board OK Given More Fair Projects”, Long Island Star-Journal, (Long Island, NY, Sept. 23, 1961), 9.

 

[9] Katie Uva, “1964 and the State of the City”, in World’s Fairs in the Cold War (University of Pittsburg Press, 2019), 78.

[10] Ari Goldman, “Queens Garden Is for the Young” in New York Times (NY, July 16, 1972), 84.

[11] Queens Botanical Garden, “About Web Page,” https://queensbotanical.org/mission/.

[12] Ari Goldman, “Queens Garden Is for the Young” in New York Times (NY, July 16, 1972), 84.

[13] Conservation Design Forum, and Atelier Dreiseitl. “Queens Botanical Garden – The Master Plan.” (Flushing, NY, 2002), 116.

[14] Conservation Design Forum, and Atelier Dreiseitl. “Queens Botanical Garden – The Master Plan.” (Flushing, NY, 2002), 77.

[15] Wikimedia Commons, Entrance Plaza: Queens Botanical Garden (2015).

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