Wednesday, April 21, 2010

LPC rejects Kissena Park Historic Grove

From the Landmarks Preservation Commission:

A scenic landmark is a landscape feature or group of features that has been designated by the Landmarks Commission. Scenic landmarks must be situated on city-owned property. Prospect Park, Verdi Square at Broadway and 73rd Street, Central Park, and Ocean Parkway are all scenic landmarks.

From the NYC Parks Department:

The old town of Flushing may claim the rightful title as one of the historic centers of horticulture in the city. In the late 1800s this site, the Kissena Park Historic Grove, was a flourishing nursery founded by Samuel Bowne Parsons (1819-1906). In Parsons’s time, Flushing maintained quite a monopoly on the nursery business. Present-day Flushing reflects the town’s rich horticultural background. You will find rare trees like the weeping beech (Fagus sylvatica) growing in yards and lining streets. Chances are that if you’re walking down the street and see a rare tree along the sidewalk, it has come from Samuel Bowne Parsons’s legendary nursery.

Around 1839, Parsons and Company nursery was established. The Parsons nursery introduced exotic species such as Japanese maples (Acer palmatum) to this continent. Collectors were sent to the Far East and Europe to bring trees and shrubs. Dozens of non-native species now taken for granted in American cities passed through the Parsons nursery before taking root in the country’s soil. Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903) who, with Calvert Vaux (1824-1895), designed both Central and Prospect Parks, specially ordered many of the rare trees and plants from Parsons for his ambitiously landscaped parks. Parsons’s son, Samuel Parsons Jr., learned all he knew about horticulture while growing up in the nursery, and went on to become a landscape architect and earned the post of Parks Commissioner in 1905.

Due to a high demand for silk, Parsons imported 25,000 white mulberries (Morus alba). The species was native to Asia and was the preferred food of the silkworm. Since the introduction of the white mulberry to the Parsons nursery at Kissena, this tree has persisted and spread through the eastern and southern United States. Parsons was one of the largest growers of magnolias (Magnolia) and rare evergreens in the country.

When the firm closed, following the elder Parsons’s death in 1906, the City of New York acquired the property for parkland use. At the time, it was the second land acquisition in the gradual formation of Kissena Park. The lake, purchased in 1904, was the first. All but 14 acres of the nursery stock were removed during the initial construction of Kissena Park. It is believed that Parsons himself originated the name “Kissena” for the lake, taking it from the Chippewa Indian word “kissina” meaning “it is cold.” Over the years, the city continued to obtain land and by 1950 had established the Kissena Park boundaries.

This 14-acre plot is now known as the Historic Grove, and consists of mature exotic specimens left over from Parsons’s nursery, such as wisteria (Wisteria) and English ivy (Hedera helix). The Grove is located in the northern part of the park, at Rose Avenue and Parsons Boulevard. The site was rediscovered in 1981 by Parks horticulturist Shelly Stiles and her interns. Their goal was to clean up a two-acre area that had become overgrown. They were surprised to discover the remnants of the old Parsons nursery.

Over 100 varieties of trees can be found at Kissena Grove. The rarest include a Persian parrotia (Parrotica persica) of Iran, Chinese toon (Cedrela sinensis), castor-aralia (Kalopanax pictus) of Japan, China, and Siberia, and Baldcypress trees (Taxodium distichum). One of the most noticeable and interesting trees in the Historic Grove is the katsura (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) of Asia. It may appear to be one tree with many stems shooting from the ground. In fact, these trees were planted in a row as part of the nursery stock, and now have fused together creating the illusion of a single tree.

So, of course, the LPC rejected the application for review submitted by an arborist and local civic leader for designation of the grove as a scenic landmark.

Lpc Rejection Historic Grove

Just because the Parks Department says it's an "Historic Grove" doesn't make it so. That's Mary Beth Betts' decision! Now, if you uproot those trees and replant them in Manhattan, perhaps she'll reconsider.

Actually, one has to wonder if the Parks Department protested a potential designation of the grove because it has a different purpose for the property down the road.


Anonymous said...

Its time to demand Mary B Betts resignation.

We no longer have confidence in her ability to make sound judgments.

As our taxes are paying her salary, and she is not doing her job, its time to dismiss a bungling servant.

Its Our Fault said...

But she would never get away with garbage like this in other boroughs. Queens brings it on ourselves.

It’s time for groups like Queens Preservation Council, Queens Civic Congress, or that Four Boroughs group to get serious about preservation issues in this boro - everyone is whispering that we tired we are that a handful of self-appointed people like to cut one-on-one deals while the rest of the borough rots.

You know full well what is happening here and we see no real leadership or backbone to change things. You have been long enough in the kitchen cooking up something for the borough -- now we had better see something worth the wait.

Time to go after the press and the pols that are feeding us bullshit and outright lies.

Time to go after the press and the pols who are bungling the rezoning of our borough.

In other words, preservation in Queens just got bumped up a notch.

The old bullshit just doesn’t cut it, and furthermore, we are going to get vocal about it naming names and exposing incompetence.

And demanding results.

Anonymous said...

And be sure to call 311 if you see any vandalism to the trees.

-Mary Beth Betts.

Anonymous said...

What do you expect from a frustrated dyke/director of research with a grudge against Queens..

"Hang Mary Beth to a sour apple tree", or whatever is available in the historic grove!

Boss Tweed Says said...

"Well, what are you going to do about it?"

Trent? Graziaino? Dolan? QCC?

Front and center!

Anonymous said...

apply for national recognition