Known for its diverse population and eclectic restaurants, Elmhurst, Queens has added a six-acre green space with a state-of-the art playground to its attractions. Elmhurst Park, also known as Gas Tank Park, is built in the shadow of the Long Island Expressway on the former site of an unsightly and environmentally unfriendly gas-storage facility. (Don't worry: The gas company cleaned up the area before selling it to the city for $1.)
The $20 million renovation has resulted in a gorgeous oasis in the midst of buzzing roadways and warehouses. Walking paths provide a serene alternative to the industrial neighborhood's sidewalks, and grassy expanses invite visitors to roam, picnic and play with their dogs.
Of course, the big attraction for families is the lovely playground. My adventurous two-year-old and I spent an afternoon exploring this new tot spot.
Like most modern playgrounds, Elmhurst Park is divided into several sections. The toddler area boasts two climbing structures with slides, bridges and hanging bars. There are many nearby benches so weary parents can supervise their kids while sitting. Shock-absorbing rubber covers the ground and doesn't get too hot under the summer sun. As the mother of an adventurous child, I appreciated that this zone is mostly gated off and separated from the swings and big kids' space. However, if you have two or more children playing in separate sections, you may have trouble keeping an eye on all of them.
An enormous pile of rocks recovered from a Brooklyn construction site creates a central platform for climbing and looking out over the park. Colorful plastic binoculars allow kids to gaze at trees, clouds and passing semis.
There's also a super-steep slide that will launch children (and adults!) a foot or two beyond the anticipated landing zone. It's fun and potentially frightening, so you may want to encourage your child to watch other kids trying it out before giving it a go.
The older kids' play area looks like something out of a superhero movie. A complicated network of arches and ropes provides wonderful opportunities for climbing, swinging and pretending to be Spider-Man.
Several pieces of equipment, including three stationery bicycles, are apparently linked to a power storage center. According to signs, by pedaling you should be able to generate enough electricity to turn on nearby lights, but we could never figure out how to operate them successfully. We still had fun, though!
Although the sprinklers weren't on the day we visited, there's an open area outside the playground with ground sprays and a few spouts in the toddler area.
For those of us living in western Queens, Elmhurst Park is a much needed addition to our sparse selection of family-friendly outdoor spaces. That said, it's still a work in progress. There are currently no formal restrooms, only Porta-Potties, and the young trees provide little shade, so you'll need to slather on the sunscreen. Since there aren't many nearby shops or restaurants, you'll also want to bring your own snacks and supplies.
Elmhurst Park is located off Grand Avenue at 57th Avenue and 74th Street.
Get the scoop on other Destination Playgrounds in New York City.