LaGuardia Touchdown Lights Park – Queens, New York

This alliterative park in East Elmherst is unusual. It is littered with aviation guiding lights and cuts diagonally across several blocks before ending abruptly at the runway of LaGuardia Airport.

The reason for these strange patches of park is none other that good old fashioned government regulation and a too-close airport. Because the property line of LaGuardia’s runway is so close to the nearby residential neighborhood in Queens, the airport’s landing lights extend out into the neighborhood next door. Residents of the neighborhood are able to go out and enjoy the parks’ open air, being sure to avoid the fenced off LaGuardia Landing Lights littered throughout.

The park was was created in 1958 to confirm with Federal Aviation Administration regulations, which require cleared land in the approaches leading up to airport runways. The nine pieces of the park were surrendered to the City for park purposes from the Port Authority and follow the flight path to LaGuardia Airport.

Planes have been taking off and landing from this area since 1929. But before it was expanded and named for former New York City mayor Fiorello La Guardia, it was a small private landing strip. In 1935 Mayor La Guardia chose the site for the construction of a new airport, which opened in 1939 as the New York Municipal Airport after a $23 million renovation (equivalent to more than $400 million in 2020).

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