The Kissena Corridor is the official designation for several connected Parks Department
properties in Queens
, New York
. From east to west, it consists of Flushing Meadow Park
, the Queens Botanical Gardens
, Kissena Corridor Park, Kissena Park
, Peck Park, Cunningham Park
, and Alley Pond Park
Flushing Meadow Park is a very large property bordered by the Long Island Railroad's Port Washington Branch on the north, by the Grand Central Parkway on the west, Union Turnpike on the south, and the Van Wyck Expressway and College Point Boulevard on the east. Two World's Fairs were held here, in 1939-40, and 1964-65. The biggest remaining attraction from the World's Fairs is a giant unisphere visible from several miles away. The park also has within its boundaries two lakes at the southern end, called Willow Lake and Meadow Lake, the MTA's Jamaica Yard, the Queens Museum and Hall of Science, and the crowning achievement of former mayor David Dinkins' career, the Arthur Ashe tennis stadium, where the US Open is played every year. From the northern end there is also a walkway that leads to Shea Stadium, home of the New York Mets.
From the eastern end of Flushing Meadow, a pedestrian bridge leads to the Queens Botanical Gardens, crossing over College Point Boulevard. The Botanical Garden is a much smaller property, located between College Point Boulevard and Main Street. I do not know exactly what they've got in there, as my only experience with the place was being chased for several blocks by the cop-in-a-box who patrols it at night, but it is probably not much different from the Botanical Gardens in any of the other boroughs.
On the opposite side of Main Street is Kissena Corridor Park. "Kissena" is a word borrowed (quite accurately) from the local Native Americans, meaning "it is cold". This is mostly an undeveloped property, located between Main Street and Kissena Boulevard. There are playgrounds and basketball courts on either end, and a small local gardening effort in the middle, but the rest of it is trees and weeds, just like it was in the late 1910s when the Parks Department bought this property from the Long Island Railroad.
The section of the corridor between the Botanical Gardens and Cunningham Park is connected by an abandoned Long Island Railroad right-of-way. To expain it quickly, the LIRR was formed out of the remains of three rival companies in the 1870s. As a result, there were many redundancies in service, and the new LIRR was forced to abandon trackage. One such line was the Central Branch, running from Willets Point, the present-day site of Shea Stadium, to Bethpage. The LIRR abandoned the Central Branch, west of the Creedmoor insane asylum, in 1879, though the rails were not removed until the 1910s when the property was sold to the city. Vague traces of the right-of-way are still visible in the undeveloped sections.
Creedmoor, incidentally, is where the young Lou Reed received his electroshock treatments.
Kissena Park is the next section, located between Kissena Boulevard and 164th Street. It contains a natural lake, also called Kissena, baseball fields, tennis courts, and a bicycle-racing track (also known as a velodrome), which is, unfortunately, in rather poor repair. Kissena Park is also the place where me, Chris-O, and various others have experimented with mind-altering substances. It is a very beautiful place, especially along the lake at night, and there usually aren't any cops around.
A detour of a few blocks from the corridor will take you to Flushing Cemetery, where jazz greats Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie are buried. The Dizz's grave is unmarked, by the way.
The corridor continues with an unnamed ten-block strip linking Kissena and Peck Parks. The abandoned railroad has been converted into a jogging trail here. For shame.
Peck Park is bordered by Fresh Meadows Lane on the west and the Long Island Expressway on the east. It is only one block wide, and features five baseball fields, handball and basketball courts, and a playground. A pedestrian bridge crosses over the Expressway and into Cunningham Park.
Cunningham Park is also mostly undeveloped. It contains another piece of arcane Queens history, the Vanderbilt Motor Parkway. This was the first highway in Queens, predating both the LIE and the GCP. It ran from a spot near the corner of 199th Street and 64th Avenue (now occupied by St. Francis Prep Catholic High School) to Lake Ronkonkoma in Suffolk County. It was a privately-owned toll road that was driven out of business in the 1930s by the LIE, which closely paralelled it, and most sections were abandoned. In Cunningham Park it has been converted into a walking trail, and is intact as far as Creedmoor. Cunningham is filled with abandoned curiosities; the remnants of the old railroad, and two other early roads, Horace Harding Boulevard (the original, pre-LIE alignment), and North Hempstead Turnpike, which once connected Hempstead Turnpike to Flushing. They are visible as muddy trenches and embankments in the park's nearly-inaccessible northern end.
Cunningham and Alley Pond Parks are connected by a 15-block stretch of the old Motor Parkway. Alley Pond is a sprawling expanse of mostly wild parkland. The northern end is a marsh, and home to the Alley Pond Environmental Center, which offers guided tours of the marsh and classes in biology and astronomy and such. The southern end is undeveloped also, and used as a picnicking spot by the law-abiding citizens of Queens, and a blunt-smoking spot by the rest of us.
Flushing Meadow Park--By subway: 7 to Willets Point (north end), or E and F to Union Turnpike (south end). By train: LIRR to Willets Point. By bus: q10, q10A, q37, q46, q48, q58, q60, q65A, q74, q88.
Queens Botanical Gardens--By bus: q20, q44, q58 from Flushing.
Kissena Park--By bus: q17, q25, q34, q65 from Flushing or Jamaica.
Cunningham Park--By bus: q26, q30, q46, q75, q76, q88.
Alley Pond Park--By bus: q12, q27, q30, q75, q88.
All parks in the Kissena Corridor are accessible by car from the Long Island Expressway, exits 23 to 30.