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Parks Dept. to add Fort Totten tram

The city Parks Department will add a tram with several stops at Fort Totten by next spring or summer to make it easier for visitors to get around the northeast Queens park, an agency spokeswoman said.

Borough President Helen Marshall secured $300,000 for the creation of the tram, which will begin at Fort Totten’s parking lot and drop passengers off at the site’s new visitor’s center, its pool and the fort, said Janice Melnick, Parks administrator for northeast Queens.

The new tram will be wheelchair−accessible and accommodate up to 48 people. Melnick said the city will probably introduce the vehicle either in the spring or summer.

“It will make Fort Totten much more accessible to the public,” she said. “It will be very easy for visitors to get on and off.”

The tram will be a compressed natural gas vehicle with a motor in the front. The vehicle will be open air, so it will not be used during inclement weather, Melnick said.

The Parks Department is currently in the midst of a plan to upgrade the fort by demolishing 18 townhouses built in the 1950s at the site and replacing them with parkland, Melnick said. The property will be landscaped and opened to visitors most likely in 2010, following an 18−month construction and planting process, she said.

Last summer, the city opened a new visitor’s center at Fort Totten and a new playground is expected to open next to the park’s baseball field early next year, Melnick said.

She said the city also is expected to construct further additions in the future. Borough residents have mentioned they would like gardens, an outdoor entertainment area, more playgrounds and restrooms at the site, she said.

A Parks spokeswoman said the department is also considering the possibility of putting a temporary fuel station for the tram at the site.

Fort Totten, bounded by the Long Island Sound and Cross Island Parkway, contains 136 acres of land, parceled out by the U.S. Army in 1995 to various city agencies, including Parks, which owns 50 acres, the FDNY, the Coast Guard and a veteran’s organization.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e−mail at nduke@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 156.

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