I put this assignment off until Sunday, which I soon came to profoundly regret as I stepped outside into the freezing half-snow half-rain outside. Earlier today, I had been debating where to visit, pondering which locations would best facilitate an “urban adventure” without being too far out of the way – while an exciting assignment, I’m lazy at heart and didn’t want my excursion to take more than a couple hours. I decided on Flushing Meadows Park in Queens. I’ve actually been there a few times before to see the Queens Museum with my family (my mom works with artists and curators around the city), but I figured this time around my visit would prove to be more insightful with my now-extensive background urban studies. I made sure to bundle up and dragged my brother along, home from college for the break.
We took the 7-train all the way out to Citi Field and started walking towards the park; the first thing that struck me was the sheer scale of its layout. Vast, uncompromisingly straight promenades divided the greenery with meticulous symmetry and it was clear that every inch of this park was designed to the exact specifications of its developer. Each tree was evenly spaced and purposefully placed, and smaller walkways fed into larger ones that went on for hundreds of meters, each ending at the base of a building or monument. The park seemed suspiciously empty, even despite the weather – perhaps a testament to its size, or what seemed to me to be the harsh, daunting layout of the place. Standing by the Unisphere I couldn’t help but feel the architecture almost had fascist feel to it; being greeted by the grey, imposing façade of the Queens Museum was not a welcoming sight, probably made worse by the overcast skies above. I knew the park had been developed by Robert Moses, and it certainly felt that way. Although of course no cars are allowed on the walkways, the distances are a hassle to cover on foot, and the dull roar of the highway in the background is impossible to ignore; this makes the area very automobile-friendly, a driving principle behind Moses’ projects. To me, the saving grace of the area is that it is, quite obviously, a park – it’s hard to not imagine local communities enjoying the space and greenery during the summer, or with better weather. I can’t help but think, however, that one could have designed the park to be friendlier to pedestrians and perhaps given it more of a natural feel; compared to the rolling hills and dense greenery of some of the other larger parks around the city, Flushing Meadows offers a contrast that does not seem to be the most welcoming to its visitors.