Visitors unfamiliar with southeast Queens will find a sweeping, green oasis in Baisley Pond Park, which sits on an irregular plot between Foch, Sutphin, Rockaway and Baisley Boulevards. The park’s 110 acres offer baseball, softball and cricket fields in its southern extension between Rockaway Boulevard and the Belt Parkway, children’s playgrounds, catch and release fishing in its large peaceful pond, and plenty of benches to laze on. This time of year the fall colors are beginning to blaze and the new promenade at the pond rim, with a dozen carven frogs, looks out over the mirrory pond and its collection of shorebirds.


Oakland Lake, at 46th Avenue and Cloverdale Boulevard, is the largest of a number of small “kettle ponds” left over from the passage of a glacier that stopped its southern progress in the middle of Long Island 15,000 years ago. According to the NYC Parks Department, it was once thought to be fully 600 feet deep, but the lake bottom was found to be just 20 feet in 1969. Similar to what was done with Kissena Lake, Oakland Lake was surrounded with a concrete lining and “citified” in the 1930s. After lean years in which the lake’s condition deteriorated, a revitalization effort was spearheaded by local resident Gertrude Waldeyer, whose Oakland Lake and Ravine Conservation Committee raised $1,000,000 to restore the lake to its natural state. It is now home to catfish, sunfish and carp. Oakland Lake has taken its place, along with other Alley Pond lakes such as Potamogeton Pond, Turtle Pond, Decodon Pond, Lily Pad Pond and Muskrat Pond as small glimpses of real wetland in the big city.


I must admit to being stumped by a sign I encountered in eastern Queens, and found that it indeed was a misspelling.

Eastern Queens has a collection of vast parks – the familiar Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Kissena Park and its Corridor, Alley Pond Park, and Cunningham Park. (Aside from Forest Park and Astoria Park, western Queens is somewhat park-starved.) There are also parkways -– green spaces along car-only parkways built by traffic czar Robert Moses in the early 20th century such as the Belt, the Cross Island, and today’s scene at Grand Central Parkway. I was rambling along Bell Boulevard just north of the GCP in March 2011 when a sign caught my eye at the corner of 86th Avenue, which serves as the northern border of the GCP along with some relatively undeveloped parkland. It read: Potomogeton Park, which I assumed was a Native American place name. Googling it, I found that it was the common water plant with floating leaves, found in most parks. I never knew its official name, and the Parks Department hasn’t either, since the correct spelling is potamogeton, with an a instead of an o after the first t. Hey, it would have stumped me in a spelling bee as well. The name is actually Greek in origin.


Locked inside and insulated from the hideous weather, I’ve been reminiscing about the time when you could just leave the house and walk around Queens without wearing 25 pounds of coat.

An annual “cabin fever” process, which invariably ends with a stir crazy photographer historian saying “enough of  this” (the actual expression is a bit more colorful, but Brownstoner is a family publication) and then marching out into the frozen wastes of Queens. A few years ago, after a remarkable snowstorm, my “enough of this” walk carried me to one of my favorite places – First Calvary Cemetery in Blissville.

You won’t believe what I found there.


The only road that connects Douglaston and Little Neck north of Northern Boulevard runs between Douglas Road, at the eastern edge of Douglaston at Udall’s Cove Park, and Little Neck Parkway alongside the Long Island Rail Road. The city has never really settled on a name for the road, and thus it’s known by a variety of names depending on what part of the route you happen to be on.


Until Hagstrom listed it in the 1970s, it had never made city maps, either, which leads me to believe the road in its complete route is a relatively recent connection. Area residents have been calling it simply “the back road.”


The New York City parks department held a meeting earlier this month to reveal several possibilities for a master plan for the 55 acre Ridgewood Reservoir. The site, a reservoir that served Brooklyn between 1858 and 1959, was drained in 1989, and is now part of Highland Park. Since then, it has been largely left alone and returned to the wild. Today the three basins that once held water have become wetlands, a large pond and woodland, and the entire area has become an important stop on the Atlantic Flyway for migrating birds. The park is home to 127 bird species at any given time including seven that are threatened or endangered. The park was part of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s PlaNYC 2030 master plan and was originally funded with $50 million. In that plan, one of the basins was to be cleared and converted into playing fields. As budgets tightened, the money disappeared and the Parks Department made only small changes to the perimeter of the park. After years of study the parks department has now offered up three possible plans for the future of the former reservoir ranging from the least invasive, Concept Plan A  which allows only limited public access and a few walkways through one of the basins, to Concept Plan C which includes some playing fields and differing levels of pubic access to all the basins. However, funding remains an issue for these new plans too. One activist quoted by Save Ridgewood Reservoir, said, “The bad news is there’s no funding stream – but it’s also the good news that there’s no money. It’s good news because that means the city won’t destroy the place.”

The community will be able to pick and choose between elements of all of the plans in making its final recommendation. Comments can be mailed to Community Board 5, 61-23 Myrtle Ave,. Glendale, NY 11385; or emailed to qnscb5@nyc.rr.com. See the other plans after the jump.


We asked Paula Z. Segal, the founder and director of 596 Acres, to fill us in on all the community garden action happening around Queens. 596 Acres specializes in helping communities transform empty lots into community garden spaces. You can search all the public vacant sites in Queens through the 596 Acres website. Here’s what Queens residents have already gotten started on:

  • Some folks in Sunnyside who thought they were trying to simply start a garden on their corner at 39th Avenue and 50th Street were told to contact the owner, and the plans for this controversial development surfaced. 596 Acres is working to more actively support communities working for access to vacant privately owned land.
  • Smiling Hogshead Ranch (pictured) is a super active site on MTA-owned land in Long Island City that is growing food while negotiating for long-term tenure with the Authority. Here are more details about that site, also follow the garden’s Facebook page to keep up with the progress.
  • Currently, this lot in the Rockaways is in the first round of Gardens for Healthy Communities sites and is being licensed by the Parks Department for a four year term through the GreenThumb program. That means this lot will be funded through the Mayor’s Obesity Task Force initiative — the initiative seeks to establish gardens that provide fresh food in neighborhoods that have limited access to it.
  • A few garden-hopeful private lots include this space in Corona, in partnership with Immigrant Movement International and this CityLine lot, in partnership with the Bangladeshi American Community Development and Youth Service.
  • Check out all the existing gardens on public land in Queens right here.

Any readers out there working on community garden projects of their own?


Image Source: Arcadia Publishing: Jamaica Bay

It’s a chance to make history, star in a movie and live on in perpetuity. Dan Hendrick, who is currently working on the documentary Jamaica Bay Lives, and the Queens Memory Project are looking for people to share their stories, photos, mementos and thoughts on the neighborhoods stretching from Howard Beach through the Rockaways to Breezy Point. On April 24, Hendrick and QMP partners Queens College and Queens Library will be interviewing past and current area residents during Jamaica Bay Community History Night at the Broad Channel Branch Library. Hendrick noted that this is the chance to preserve local history before it becomes a fuzzy memory. He added that Hurricane Sandy has added a whole new chapter to this project.

Jamaica Bay Community History Night
Broad Channel Branch Library
16-26 Crossbay Boulevard, Broad Channel
Wednesday, April 24
4pm – 7pm | Free


Images Source: Queens County Farm Museum

Ah, the apple orchard…the sheep…the planting fields…the proximity to the Grand Central Parkway. On April 20 and 21, New York City’s only working historical farm, the Queens County Farm Museum, will host a blow-out spring festival. This 47-acre parcel in Glen Oaks — which dates back to 1697 — will fill with carnival rides, midway games, hayrides and live children’s entertainment. As always, there will be opportunities to check out the herb garden, pet the livestock, explore the greenhouse complex, and generally enjoy the city’s largest remaining tract of undisturbed farmland.

Children’s Carnival
Queens County Farm Museum
73-50 Little Neck Parkway, Glen Oaks
Saturday, April 20, and Sunday, April 21
11am – 6pm | $11


Image Source: BIG!NYC

Earlier in the year we reported on where you could drop your food scraps for composting. Most of that compost went to improving city property and community gardens and organizations. But unless you built your own bin, if you’ve wanted to get in on that composting action, you were out of luck. But not now. BIG!NYC points out that the Department of Sanitation will give you free bags of city compost and mulch as long as you use them to beautify public trees lining the street. Those oases of bark and dirt along the sidewalks easily suffer from rainwater runoff, uncurbed dogs, and sheer neglect. With a load of compost and mulch, a weekend afternoon, and a couple of friends, you can finally fix up that shabby patch of dirt outside your home — for free!