7. Flushing Meadows-Corona Park Used To Be Called the Corona Ash Dump

Corona Ash Dump. Photo from New York City Parks Photo Archive.

In literature, the Corona Ash Dump was immortalized and romanticized by F. Scott Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby as the “valley of ashes.” It was where the city’s coal burning refuse–the ash–was taken, along with garbage. On a former marshland rose dusty, high mounds (one at 100 feet was dubbed Mount Corona) through which the Long Island Railroad ran, along with Grand Central Parkway. Scavenging by both humans and rats was a common occurrence.

The Corona Ash Dump was an eyesore for the wealthy commuters coming in from the Gold Coast and like many other undesirable areas targeted by Robert Moses, the Corona Ash Dumps would undergo a massive transformation. Residents and businesses would be evicted and a high-profile event–the 1939 World’s Fair–would hasten changes. As reported by Urban Omnibus, “In creating a monumental park out of the Corona Ash Dumps, Moses likened himself to the prophet Isaiah in his quest to ‘Give unto them beauty for ashes.'”