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Queens Botanical Garden receives public space award

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Residents may argue about whether or not Queens is a great place to live, but there is no question it is home to a great public space.

The American Planning Association recently announced that the Queens Botanical Garden has been designated as one of 10 Great Public Spaces for 2009 through its Great Places in America program.

The association said that it chose the 39-acre garden for its commitment to sustainability, integration of cultural and social diversity and $70 million revamping.

“We’re very excited to single out Queens Botanical Garden as one of this year’s Great Public Spaces,” Paul Farmer, chief executive officer of the association, said in a statement. “The garden has set a new standard for others to follow when it comes to planning public spaces that not only conserve natural resources, but also take into account a community’s varying social and cultural needs. The result is a public space that is very special.”

The Queens Botanical Garden has grown with the borough since its introduction as a five-acre “Gardens on Parade” exhibit during the 1939 New York World’s Fair. It was moved to its downtown Flushing location, opening there in 1963, to make room for the 1964 World’s Fair and the construction of the Van Wyck Expressway extension.

“The beauty of this award is that it’s not just about a building, it’s about the people with the buildings and the landscape,” said Susan Lacerte, executive director of the garden, who now wears a Great Public Space award pin on her shirt. “It’s a great honor. We’re all smiling about it.”

The news of the designation is a sliver of positivity for a Queens institution that has seen its share of bad times during the economic downturn. Earlier this year, the garden was forced to close for two weeks, layoffs were made, furloughs were instituted and spring hiring was canceled.

“It’ll take a little while financially. Just yesterday I heard there are more proposed cuts from the city and I think the thing is the whole world is in this situation,” said Lacerte. “Our staff is down 25 percent from what it was two years ago, but everybody’s in the same situation so we’ll be able to figure it out.”

Last year, Central Park in Manhattan was designated a Great Place in America.

From November to March the Queens Botanical Garden is open Tuesday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and is closed on Mondays. Admission is free, though donations are accepted.

For more information, visit queensbotanical.org.

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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