103rd street and 37th ave in corona queens

Nestled between the high-rises of Downtown Flushing and the stately garden apartments of Jackson Heights lies Corona. With roughly 65% of residents born outside the United States and 44,000 people (or almost 85%) identifying as Hispanic, Corona is a slice of Latin America in the middle of Queens. The neighborhood is mostly low-rise, consisting of two, three, and four-story apartment buildings and houses. Corona’s main link to Manhattan is the 7 train, which serves the neighborhood at the 111th Street, 103rd Street, and Junction Boulevard stops. 

While today Corona is a bustling 24/7 New York City neighborhood, only a century ago it was a quiet marshland. Originally called West Flushing, much of the land occupied by modern-day Corona was part of the vast saltwater marsh called the Flushing Meadows. This swamp stretched all the way from the mouth of the Flushing Creek on the Long Island Sound down to its basin in what is today the neighborhood of Kew Gardens. Here is our guide to the top 10 secrets of Corona, Queens.

1. Corona was once an Ash Dump

willow lake in queens nyc
The southern section of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park has been a wetlands preserve since 1976.

For 10,000 years after the melting of the last glaciers on Long Island, the three-mile stretch of land between the hills of Flushing and the woodlands of Jackson Heights contained a sprawling saltwater marsh. The Lenape people who lived in the area around Elmhurst and Flushing had used these wetlands as hunting grounds for millennia. After they were largely driven out of western Queens in the late 1600s, the farmers and townspeople of the rural borough continued to use these wetlands, which had come to be known as the Flushing Meadows, as common hunting land. 

However, by the 1890s, the corrupt Tammany-controlled Brooklyn Ash Removal Company began using the Flushing Meadows as their private dumping ground for the ashen remains of incinerated garbage. Over the next 30 years, the giant piles of burned garbage were unloaded into the Flushing Meadows, creating mounds 40 to 50 feet high. The largest of these mounds was almost 100 feet tall and nicknamed “Mount Corona” by the locals. Corona’s ash heaps had become so infamous that they inspired F. Scott Fitzgerald to call Corona the “valley of ashes” in The Great Gatsby. The construction of the World’s Fair site in 1939 leveled the mountains of ash and dealt a fatal blow to the remaining wetlands of Flushing Meadows. Corona’s contemporary urban landscape, and modern Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, were built on the layered remains of incinerated garbage and marshland.