7. Flushing Meadows Used to Be 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.’”

Moses was active in trying to lure sports to Flushing Meadows, with his most famous (and failed) attempt to move the Dodgers from Ebbets Field. In a bid to negotiate a move to Atlantic Yards, Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley opened the possibility of moving the Dodgers to Los Angeles. When Moses wouldn’t offer up Atlantic Yards, in a push to get the Dodgers to relocate to Flushing, O’Malley ended up taking the California offer. For the U.S. Open, the city was “throwing permits at us,” recalled Randy Gregson, former U.S.T.A. president and a friend of William Slew Hester, the U.S.T.A. President that engineered the move from the West Side Tennis Club. The New York Times obituary describes Hester as “the gruff-drawling tennis official who almost singlehandedly wrenched the United States Open from its cramped roots in Forest Hills and transplanted it to a sprawling new National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.”