7. Flushing Meadows Used to Be Ash Dump

Corona Ash Dump.
Corona Ash Dump. Courtesy of New York City Parks Photo Archive.

In literature, the Corona Ash Dump was immortalized and romanticized by F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby as the “valley of ashes.” The city’s coal-burning refuse was taken here along with garbage. On a former marshland rose dusty, high mounds through which the Long Island Railroad ran, along with Grand Central Parkway. Scavenging by both humans and rats was a common occurrence. Like many other areas targeted by Robert Moses, the Corona Ash Dumps underwent a massive transformation. Moses pushed for the eviction of residents and businesses around the time of the 1939 World’s Fair.

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, O’Malley took 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. Moses would have to be content with tennis.