Creating and Connecting Social Spaces in Forest Hills
Queens is comprised of distinct neighborhoods that represent an eclectic history and diverse landscapes. Forest Hills, which boasts historic Tudor Architecture with an urban-suburban feel just 20 minutes from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan, is no exception. Two ideas submitted to By the City / For the City addressed major public spaces: one New Yorker wished that Station Square, on the south side of the LIRR tracks, was more of a neighborhood social space instead of a traffic circle, while local resident Erin proposed that Austin Street, to the north of the tracks, should be converted into a pedestrian mall.
The community of Forest Hills was first founded in 1906, before which the area was known as Whitepot. In 1909, Margaret Olivia Slocum Sage, who founded the Russell Sage Foundation, bought 142 acres of land from the Cord Meyer Development Company. Today, that site is home to Forest Hills Gardens, which was designed as a garden city by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. and architect Grosvenor Atterbury. At its heart is Station Square, a ring of unique, Tudor-style buildings connected by arched walkways that enclose a brick-paved square, which was constructed a village center in 1912. At the time of its creation, Forest Hills Gardens was considered the most enlightened and innovative of the newly emerging suburbs. It balanced architecture, streetscapes, public spaces, and greenery.
The gardens is a distinctive section of Forest Hills—with distinctively higher property values. On the other side of the tracks (literally), to the north, is the lively Austin Street, the main commercial corridor within the greater Forest Hills neighborhood. This section of the neighborhood, developed (starting in 1906) by Cord Meyer, features a more traditional street grid, with a mix of single-family homes and apartment blocks in various architectural styles. Austin Street’s bustling commercial district is connected to Station Square via an underpass beneath the LIRR tracks at Continental Avenue.
Although these two distinct areas of the Forest Hills neighborhood have different developmental histories, the ideas for increasing social space on either site of the tracks shared through By the City / For the City identify an opportunity to take advantage of the unique juncture between Station Square and Austin Street. Combined, these two spaces could provide a distinctive link between the two sides of the neighborhood while prioritizing pedestrians and social interaction.
Think you’re the designer who can stitch Station Square and Austin Street into a vibrant public space for Forest Hills? Click here to register for the By the City / For the City design competition today! Entries are due by midnight (EST) on Sunday, July 31st, 2011. We can’t wait to see what you come up with!