Queens Botanical Garden: Flushing, New York


From its origins as the five-acre "Gardens on Parade" exhibit during the 1939 New York World's Fair to the 39 acres it now occupies in downtown Flushing, Queens Botanical Garden is defined as much by its flora and landscaping as by the multicultural contributions and influences of the most ethnically diverse county in the U.S. Guided by its vision of using plants as unique expressions of cultural traditions, the garden demonstrates the critical linkages between local sustainability, global conservation, and traditional cultural practices as they relate to natural resources.

Designated Area

The Queens Botanical Garden is located at 43-50 Main Street in downtown Flushing.

Located in the most ethnically diverse county in the U.S., Queens Botanical Garden's grounds reflect the multicultural residents who visit the garden. Photo courtesy of Queens Botanical Garden Staff.

Planning Excellence

The garden's unique sense of place is defined not only by its grounds and buildings, but by its visitors and their uses of the space whether to practice tai chi or attend the annual Moon Festival. Citizen and community engagement with the garden dates to 1946 when the Queens Botanical Garden Society was chartered and began restoring the original exhibits and plantings from 1939.

The garden was closed in 1961 to allow for an expressway extension and the 1964-65 World's Fair. In 1963, the garden reopened in the Kissena Corridor Park. Thirty years later, it developed the first of several master plans and implementation initiatives, which culminated in 2007 when the garden's new $24.1 million Visitor & Administration Building opened.

Among the 300,000 annual visitors, the Queens Botanical Garden is a retreat from the inner city and a place for children, among others, to experience the natural environment. Here, youth learn about mulching a vegetable garden at the HSBC Children's Garden. Photo courtesy of Queens Botanical Garden Staff.

Defining Characteristics, Features

Community Engagement and Support

  • Tradition of resident and neighborhood involvement in Garden starts with community members forming the Queens Botanical Garden Society in 1946 to restore neglected exhibits and plantings from the 1939-1940 World's Fair
  • Part of process developing 1999 master plan involved forming cultural advisory committees; results in garden having symbolic topiary and flora reflect borough's diverse residents and cultures
  • Garden hosts traditions for many cultures; 75 percent of garden patrons speak languages other than English and attracts 300,000 visitors annually
  • Broad public support for garden includes elected officials, Flushing Business Improvement District, Flushing Chinese Business Association; also partnerships with local entrepreneurs and philanthropic groups 

Long-Range Vision and Planning

  • New facilities and site circulation study completed in 1992 as part of the garden's post-1964 World's Fair plan; a second master plan completed in 2001, puts forth $70 million in garden improvements; water is unifying theme
  • Three community workshops held to gather resident input for 2001 master plan, which has two implementation phases and focuses on sustainability, environmental stewardship and cultural expression
  • First phase of 2002 Master Plan completed in 2007 with grand opening of the Visitor & Administration Building; Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, other officials attend September 27 ribbon cutting 

Sustainable Redesign

  • Garden uses its location in a valley and changes in terrain levels to manage rain and storm water runoff, channeling into reflecting pools, waterfalls and wetland
  • State-of-the-art Visitor & Administration Building was awarded a Platinum LEED rating from the U.S. Green Building Council, the highest rating available and the first facility in New York City to receive this certification; uses 80 percent less water than buildings comparable in size and function; President, Borough of Queens provided $11.3 million towards $24.1 million facility
  • Visitor & Administration Building and other buildings are self-sustaining; constructed wetland filters and recharges graywater from sinks and showers for use with toilets; green roof purifies rainwater, which collects in pond and is used to irrigate garden plantings; also visitor center also has solar panels and geothermal climate control systems

Unique Sense of Place, Accessibility

  • Garden has varying plant themes along designated trails, such as Fragrance Walk, Green Roof, Pinetum and the Bee, Herb, Woodland, and Wetland Gardens
  • $3.9 million steel ornamental picket fence extends more than one mile (6,600 feet) along perimeter of garden's 39 acres; embedded with leaf finals and bronze medallions where each stone bears "Queens Botanical Garden"  
  • Several New York City bus lines provide access to gardens; No. 7 subway train station 7 blocks north; bicycle racks; limited parking with spaces reserved for those who car-pool and have battery-powered vehicles

The Queens Botanical Garden's new state-of-the-art visitor center is the first facility in New York City to obtain LEED's highest rating. Photo courtesy of © Jeff Goldberg/Esto.