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Forest Park Greenhouse reopens after extensive renovation

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Photo gallery

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Elected officials, community leaders and city Parks Department representatives cut the ribbon on the greenhouse, as children from St. John's Lutheran School look on. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Youngsters Maxwell Marciniuk (r.) and Daleth Martinez hold their plants. Photo by Christina Santucci
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City Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe photographs the flowers with his phone. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Students from St. John's Lutheran School take a tour of the greenhouse. Photo by Christina Santucci
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The greenhouse features a number of flowers including this one, for which the color is listed as Sunrise Rose. Photo by Christina Santucci
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St. John's Lutheran student Lydia Valbrun holds the plant she received. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Students from St. John's Lutheran School, including Daleth Martinez (c.) cheer for refreshments after they receive plants at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the revamped Forest Park Greenhouse. Photo by Christina Santucci

A city greenhouse growing flowers to brighten the concrete landscape of Queens is now a state-of-the-art facility after a major overhaul.

The Forest Park Greenhouse received a $3.8 million allocation from Borough President Helen Marshall, the City Council and Mayor Michael Bloomberg for a thorough redesign and upgrade that took nearly five years to complete.

To mark the occasion, city Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe welcomed elected officials, community members and schoolchildren to take part in the greenhouse’s official ribbon-cutting Monday.

“This is a great day for beauty in the city,” Benepe. “Through the planting of flowers we have been able to make the city more beautiful. When you are surrounded by flowers, you feel better about life — I’ve never seen a fight in front of a flower bed.”

Flowers grown at the facility are used for 102 greeting gardens and 884 greenstreets throughout Queens. Benepe said these sites replaced drab, concrete spaces once lining stretches of the city.

The greenhouse will also supply this year’s US Open with a bright array of 39 display beds around Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

Marshall, who has allocated close to $150 million for Queens parks during her tenure as borough president, said a visit to the old greenhouse more than five years ago left her wondering what could be done to improve the facility.

“I asked, ‘Can’t we do better than this?’” said Marshall. “The Parks Department keeps this city beautiful and this state-of-the-art greenhouse will help them do what they do best.”

The upgrades allow the greenhouse to increase its production by 25 percent, growing 250,000 colorful annuals and perennials. The addition of rolling benches has doubled the growing areas and a new heating system increases the energy efficiency of the greenhouse.

Besides boasting a more environmentally friendly system, the greenhouse can now also be used as a learning tool for area schoolchildren. Ben Herbrich, principal at St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran School on Myrtle Avenue, said the new greenhouse might plant a horticultural interest in some children.

“It could end up being a wonderful motivation for kids,” he said. “Seeds of knowledge are planted on days like this and an interest might grow out of that.”

Laura Zambelli, a third-grade teacher at St. John’s, said even her most talkative students were left speechless by the sheer amount of flowers and plants on display in the greenhouse. Maxwell Marciniuk, one of Zambelli’s students who appreciated spending the morning outside of the classroom, said the greenhouse was a lot bigger than he imagined.

“The greenhouse is very nice and it really does have so many plants,” said Marciniuk.

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at smosco@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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