Forest Park (Queens)
The Wisconsinian glaciation molded this land between 20,000 and 10,000 years ago and left the Harbor Hill Moraine, a series of small hills known as “knob and kettle” terrain, including Forest Park. The land was inhabited by the Rockaway, Lenape, and Delaware Native Americans when the Dutch West India Company settled the area in 1635.
The site of Forest Park was occupied by various landowners until the late 19th century, when City of Brooklyn officials looked for land for a large public park. In 1892, the New York State Legislature authorized the park search, and the Brooklyn Parks Department purchased the first parcel of this space on August 9, 1895, whereupon the name Brooklyn Forest Park was first used. Because of the numerous private landowners involved, the park had to be assembled in 124 parcels, finishing in 1898.
Starting in 1896, the landscaping firm of Olmsted, Olmsted & Eliot was contracted to provide a plan for the park. Frederick Law Olmsted surveyed the park and designed Forest Park Drive. Existing residential buildings were auctioned and disassembled and removed. A nine-hole golf course opened in 1901. Its club house, which was designed in the Dutch Colonial Revival style by the firm of Helmle, Huberty & Hudswell (who also designed the Williamsburgh Savings Bank tower), and which now houses the park's Administration Office, first opened in 1905.
Carousels designed by Daniel Muller were added in 1918; one of them was destroyed by fire in 1966, and the other in 1972. Jackson Pond was used for fishing and ice skating, but was filled in for redevelopment.
During the park’s centennial celebration in 1995, 100 trees were planted as a part of Operation Pine Grove, funded by American Forests and the Texaco Global Re-leaf Program. Parks uses the greenhouse, built in 1910, to grow trees and plants for many other city parks. In addition, the kettle ponds in the forest provide a haven for bird watching. Forest Park Drive between the Bandshell and the entrance to the Jackie Robinson Parkway rides along the top of the glacial moraine. In the winter, when the trees are bare, people who walk or drive along the route can see a panoramic view of Southwest Queens and Southeast Brooklyn all the way to Rockaway Beach nearly 10 miles (16 km) away.
A number of the parks' trees were destroyed in Hurricane Sandy and one fallen tree damaged the structure housing the carousel, but the damage was repaired and the carousel reopened in March, 2013.
Within Forest Park is "The Overlook", the administration building for Queens Parks, and "Oak Ridge", the former golf course clubhouse and current administration building for Forest Park. Forest Park also offers a wide array of recreational facilities, such as the George Seuffert, Sr. Bandshell, the Carousel, the Bridle Path, tennis courts, playgrounds, and Victory Field. Annual events such as the Halloween Walk, the Victorian Christmas, Nature Trails Day, orienteering and battle reenactments draw the participation of the surrounding neighborhoods of Kew Gardens, Woodhaven, Richmond Hill, Forest Hills, and Glendale.
As Olmsted noted in 1895, the park is bisected by several transportation arteries; two lines of the Long Island Rail Road – the Montauk Branch, and the Rockaway Beach Branch – ran through the land before Forest Park was acquired. Although only the Montauk Line still operates today, Forest Park is divided by Woodhaven Boulevard and the Jackie Robinson Parkway (formerly Interboro Parkway), which was completed in 1935. Despite these thoroughfares, Forest Park is the third-largest park in Queens, and contains the largest continuous oak forest in Queens and a 110-acre (0.45 km2) golf course. Forest Park is bounded by Myrtle Avenue, Union Turnpike, Park Lane, Park Lane South and Cypress Hills Cemetery.
Forest Park's trees include the Northern red oak (Quercus rubra), Scarlet oak (Quercus coccinea), Tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera), Shagbark hickory (Carya ovata), White oak (Quercus alba), American Beech (Fagus grandifolia), and Black cherry (Prunus serotina). Several trees here are more than 150 years old, and create a canopy with an under-layer of Dogwood (Cornus (genus)), Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), Sassafras (Sassafras albidum), and Corktree (Genus Phellodendron). The park was ravaged in 1912 by the chestnut blight, and for a time was used for lumbering; about the same time, greenhouses were set up to grow plants for parks throughout the city. These have since been moved to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and Bronx Park.
- City of New York; The Green Book Official Directory of the City of New York 2005-2006 Edition; P.265.
- NYC Department of Parks: Forest Park
- Kenneth T. Jackson: The Encyclopedia of New York City: New-York Historical Society; Yale University Press; 1995. p. 428.