October 17th was a bright, sunny day and there was a chill in the air as a convoy of five vans left the Brooklyn Sports Club (BSC) to go on an annual tour to Fountain Park. There were about 60 people who were thrilled with anticipation as they entered the park. One could feel the amazement while looking at the cars passing by on the Belt Parkway as they slowly became smaller and smaller in the distance.
Ducks were paddling leisurely in the rippled tide of Hendrix Creek, when visitors passed Penn Park ablaze with autumn colors blending into a silhouette against the morning sun.
The scenery unfolded swiftly as the roadway proceeded higher and higher before us. Everyone on board didn’t know where to look first. The Rockaways were clearly visible against the ocean sky. One by one you spotted Riis Park, 116th Street and Beach Channel Drive. All while advancing higher and higher up the mountain-like hills.
As the road snaked its way to the top, the city slowly came into view. At 120 feet above sea level, you could clearly see the roof tops of Spring Creek Towers (SCT) on the left. Gateway Mall at Erskine Street was in the forefront and you could also take note of the twin steeples of Blessed Sacrament Church in Cyprus Hills which borders Queens.
Looking further east, the North Shore Towers loomed in the distance, and looking west you saw the Canarsie Pier with the cars speeding by on the Belt Parkway, appearing like matchbox toys on a model speedway.
Attendees could also marvel at the Marine Parkway Bridge and Verrazano Bridge looming in the midday sun. Like a perfect autumn portrait, there were rolling hills covered in tall grass, and in the distance one could spot Staten Island.
In every direction there was beauty to behold; to the north, the outline of the Manhattan skyline, where upon scanning the panorama: the antenna atop the Freedom Tower pierced the sky, the Empire State Building stood tall amongst it’s fellow iconic buildings, such as the Chrysler Building, United Nations and Trump Towers.
The caravan of vans stopped, and everyone got out in amazement at the spectacular views, and captured the beauty with their cameras. Park Ranger John Tebbetts brought his binoculars for everyone to share. The silence was golden. Trees and underbrush have eked out their existence against the ever constant wind.
John McLaughlin, Director of Ecological Services for DEP walked off in the distance with a curious audience explaining the ecological balance of the park.
After several stops, the caravans returned along the shore road, adjacent to Jamaica Bay. On the left the Parks standout in all their majestic glory, on the right the blue waters of Jamaica Bay sits quietly with passing fishing boats.
Everyone was elated with the beauty of nature and the magnitude of pure silence and serenity as they pass the hundreds of vast hills.
Penn Park is 97 feet above sea level. However, one clearly enjoys a scenic view of JFK International Airport and the Rockaways. SCT now appears in greater detail with the city in the background. Attendees clicked their cameras away with each stop on the tour’s journey.
Looking North down Pennsylvania Avenue is SCT, the Empire State Building dominates the view. As the clouds roll by above, you feel as if you could pluck them out of the sky. Their silhouettes rolling across Fountain Park as they block out the sun.
The Broadway Musical, “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever,” sums up the imagery of the day.
Lee Shelley, President of Friends of Penn & Fountain Parks, Inc., says that “East New York has been given a rare gift, thanks to the efforts of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Where there were landfills, there are now two beautiful nature parks. These parks can hold their own with every other tourist attraction, Gateway and NYC could offer, and it’s in our backyard.”
For additional information about future public tours and Friends of Penn &Fountain Parks, Inc. call 347-446-8566 or email firstname.lastname@example.org Check out the next issue of the Spring Creek Sun for more Penn and Fountain Parks tour coverage.
Photos by: Lee Shelley