Idlewild Park set to get $3.5M education center


| mhayes@queenscourier.com |



Idlewild Park is set to get revamped, adding a new, state-of-the-art 5,000-square-foot nature and education center.

The potential construction area in Idlewild is an “incredible resource,” according to Blake Middleton of the award-winning Handel Architects LLP. Middleton is the head designer for the new, $3.5 million facility, working with both the Eastern Queens Alliance (EQA) and the city Parks Department.

Handel Architects has worked on many well-known projects, such as the 9/11 Memorial and Manhattan’s Downtown Dream Hotel. The idea for a new facility in Idlewild was proposed in September 2010.

In a presentation to Community Board 13 on Monday, September 24, Middleton explained that the new structure was designed in a way that will allow it to work with the wetland environment, as requested by the EQA, including permeable pathways and rain gardens.

For several years, the EQA has been focusing a large part of its work on the “restoration and preservation of wetlands in Idlewild.” Furthermore, it has aimed to establish a salt marsh environmental science learning center.

Handel Architects has designed a structure to accommodate this, housing exhibition spaces, classrooms and administrative spaces.

The center will be naturally ventilated to minimize the amount of energy used. The facade of the building will be covered in a lattice screen of recycled plastic lumber, which is durable, requires no maintenance and is made from 100 percent recycled milk and water jugs.

“The idea is to treat the building as if it is a large filter,” said Middleton.

It is designed to be able to collect and channel rain water into two separate rain gardens at either end of the pavilion. This will filter the water, which will then be absorbed by the area’s native plants.

Designs have been approved by the Parks Department and also by Community Board 13; on Monday, October 1 they were presented to the NYC Public Design Commission.

Construction is scheduled to go to bid in late spring of next year, estimated to be completed in the following 12-14 months.

Once occupancy is permitted, the nature center anticipates community meetings, nature walks, field trips and more. Maintenance is assumed to be provided by grants, donations from benefactors, private investors and occasional fundraising.