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Parks Dept. unveils new Totten plan

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City landscape architect Rachel Kramer and private architect consultant Nancy Owens briefed Borough President Helen Marshal and other attendees on the conceptual master plan, relying on slides showing aerial views of the land to highlight details.The first phase of the plan will see sweeping changes to eight acres of land at North Park. Kramer said 19 structures will be demolished, with three buildings left standing as a buffer from Fire Department land. "We wanted to keep a portion of the history of the site and not just demolish everything," Kramer explained. The units slated for destruction are dilapidated houses built in the 1950s that have been uninhabited for years, she said.About 200 trees will also be planted alongside native vegetation at the park.Fort Totten, bounded by the Long Island Sound and the Cross Island Parkway, contains 136 acres of land, parceled out by the U.S. Army in 1995 to various city agencies, including the Parks Department, which owns 50 acres, the New York City Fire Department, the Coast Guard and a veteran's organization.Parks-owned land is not contiguous, making a consistent design theme something of a challenge for the architects."We want to connect the traces of history" at the site, Owens said, adding that the goal is to unify the aesthetics of the fort and village, the standing structures and the natural landscape.That hurdle will be partially overcome with the installation of a tram, scheduled to be completed in May, which will whisk visitors around the site.Other, mostly modest measures are also being eyed for the overarching scheme, which calls for planting evergreen and pine trees at the parking lot, doubling park spaces, installing a playground, bathrooms and historical markers, and extending the stone shore front.Most of the provisions in the general plan, however, have yet to be funded, the presenters noted. When first presented in 1999, the plan came with a price tag of $16 million, and no new cost assessment has since been conducted.Nonetheless, Marshall said she was pleased with the vision so far. "My only regret is that [the land] is so chopped up for the public," she said.Reach reporter M. Junaid Alam by e-mail at malam@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300 Ext 174.

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