Greater Jamaica Corporation is currently rezoning the neighborhood adjacent to the Van Wyck expressway, creating a “Gateway Park” into downtown Jamaica, Queens. This densely concentrated area will feature a new Atlantic Avenue extension, which bisects the proposed park and the residential homes east and west of it.  Our objectives are to: (1) construct a landscape, which although segmented maintains a cohesiveness, (2) create a focal point/destination for neighborhood with passive and active programming, a gathering space for all ages that becomes a magnet for this ethnically diverse community, (3) establish a transitional + welcoming portal for traffic into greater Jamaica, an oasis among a “network of commutation”, (4) design an experiential and sensory intriguing space that is sustainable and ecologically responsible. 

Jamaica has always existed as a junction/nexus.  From 1655 as an ancient trail, emerging as a county seat, then a trading post in 1776, a tollgate for horse drawn cars in 1866, the point of origin for the LIRR and the Van Wyck (at the time of the 1939 World’s Fair) and presently the junction point between the LIRR and the AirTrain.

The sweeping curves of the proposed Atlantic Avenue extension (on grade) and the AirTrain (30’+ above grade) relate sculpturally and form parameters for this “parkitechture”. Acknowledging these vehicular transitions, we fill the void within them thereby creating middle grounds. Through fluid transitions between these heights a dialogue is created.  The landscape and built fabric increasingly interact, entangle and interweave through this verticality of space.  Inspiration is derivative from a “junction” and “nexus”. We experience a landscape as we encounter it, drive thru, ride above it, walk thru and slide thru it. The design language of the traffic rotary, exit ramp, jug handle are iconic, transformative and are incorporated into the details of the park thru an originative lexicon of design.

The park is experiential: it contains a rural and urban journey. The rural journey is segmented into multiple microhabitats. A visitor enters through “the woods”; children frolic on the rubber poured-in-place “hills”, and then encounter a 15 ft high “mountain” with built-in alpine slides children ride into a sandpit.  As this runs just below the AirTrain, mechanisms are in place to capture a portion of the tremendous stormwater runoff from the AirTrain, a drain feeds the run-off stream down the mountain captured in a man–made wetlands, with the potential to irrigate additional plant matter within the park. Excess harvested rainwater can be stored thru retention. Children can witness the native plants indigenous to this micro culture as they scoot through on the wooden “goat path”.  The urban journey consists of a slightly above grade courtyard. It is accessible from the sidewalk via stairs and/or ADA ramp.  On the far side of Atlantic Avenue is a roof garden atop a community center. The roof garden is accessible via a bridge or elevator.  Detailing within the park is conceptually derived from its junction/nexus theme. Pathways, support structures, railing for the bridge and pervious pavers are some of the many elements that inherit these design details.