NYC Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue today joined Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, Assembly Member Khaleel Anderson, Council Member Selvena Brooks-Power, President of the Eastern Queens Alliance Barbara Brown, and Community Board 13 District Manager Mark McMillian to cut the ribbon on a brand new $8.1 Million Environmental Center in Southeast Queens’ Idlewild Park.
“Set along Jamaica Bay – one of New York City’s greatest ecological treasures – this brand new Environmental Center in Idlewild Park is sure to inspire kids to learn more about the natural world around them,” said Commissioner Donoghue. “We are grateful to the Eastern Queens Alliance for their partnership creating innovative programming here, and look forward to hosting our future scientists for generations to come!”
“After many years in the making, we finally have a community-centered facility in Idlewild Park with state-of-the art indoor and outdoor classroom space that will better enable residents to learn about their natural surroundings,” said Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. “The center will enlighten visitors about Idlewild Park and Jamaica Bay and underscore their vital role in our environment, which is under an increasing threat from climate change. Hopefully, the lessons learned in the center will prompt greater support for measures to protect our vulnerable communities from this threat.”
The scope of work included construction of a new 5,400 square foot single story building, walkways from the existing parking lot, new entry fence gates, new rain garden, a storage shed, new trees and shrubs, and native wetlands grass seeding.
The building features several green elements and is expected to receive LEED “Silver” rating or better. The roof and walls make use of energy and resource efficient technology, including structural insulated panels, creating an efficient enclosure that reduces air infiltration and heat loss. All rainwater from the roof is collected into a cantilevered “spout”, which dramatically releases the rainwater into a rain garden close to the main entrance to the building. The building uses recycled materials throughout – specifically, the cladding and decking are both largely comprised of recycled materials. Natural light is brought into the building by a bank of translucent glass, while vision glass is included at key locations to view the surrounding landscape. The Nature Center is heated and cooled with an efficient all-electric system so no fossil fuels are burned on site, and the project restored native plantings to a site that previously had been overrun with non-native species.
The Environmental Center will be operated and programmed as a children’s science learning center by the Eastern Queens Alliance. New programming facilities include: an exhibition and display space; two classrooms for up to thirty students each (combinable into one space); an outdoor covered teaching area; and an entry foyer with reception desk and book sales kiosk. The center will also have restroom facilities for visitors; administrative space for staff, director’s office, storage, and conference room; and a new free-standing storage shed.
The new building and surrounding work was funded by the Mayor’s office ($3.173M) and the Queens Borough President ($5M) for a total of $8.173M. Construction began in September 2018 and the facility opened for programming in April 2022.