Goose Pond, Jamaica Hills

To the west of affluent Jamaica Estates is the slightly more affordable neighborhood of Jamaica Hills, which also sits atop the terminal moraine of the most recent ice age glacier. The southern limit of the moraine is marked by Hillside Avenue. On the north side of this road is a knob and kettle terrain while the southern side has a landscape that gently slopes down towards the ocean.

tilly 1

The only remaining kettle pond in Jamaica Hills is located inside Captain Tilly Park, a nine-acre site perched on a slope beneath the former Jamaica High School. In the center of Goose Pond is a bird sanctuary isle that is the smallest island within the smallest natural body of water in the city.

Goose Pond 2

The land around the park belonged to its namesake family in the 19th century and later to the Highland Park Society, an organization of local landowners that maintained the park. Captain George H. Tilly served in the Army Signal Group during then Spanish-American War of 1898. On May 27, 1899, Tilly and a small unit landed in the town of Escalante on Negros Island to repair a damaged telegraph cable. He was killed by Filipino rebels who felt betrayed that instead of liberating their country, the United States replaced the Spanish as colonists.

Over the decades, Goose Pond lost its natural source of water and algae bloomed in it. Much of the surrounding park had also fallen in disrepair as the city failed to maintain the park. In 1996, the Jamaica Hills Community Association and Council Member Morton Povman allocated funding for the park. The restoration included draining and deepening, installation of a new clay liner and filtration system. Carp and bluegill sunfish were reintroduced to the pond, among other native wildlife. A new well provided water for the pond and an island in its center served as a wildlife sanctuary. Each fall, the park hosts Jamaica Family Day, a fair for local residents.

Goose Pond 1

Although the pond is very shallow and surrounded by development, it offers a hint at the landscape that once covered Jamaica Hills for nearly 10,000 years. Earlier this year, the lawn to the south of the pond was reconstructed, a project that included the elimination of invasive plants and improving drainage.



6 thoughts on “Goose Pond, Jamaica Hills

  1. Eric Berman October 10, 2016 / 10:19 pm

    When I was born, the family lived near the Goose Pond. Later, when we moved out farther on Long Island, we would return to picnic and I used to sail my boats in the pond. The boat I remember most of all was a small, metal submarine which I guided with a string but which sank out of sight early in its maiden voyage.
    You didn’t happen to find it when you drained and renovated the pond, did you?


  2. Old JHS Student September 26, 2017 / 4:39 pm

    What a different world. I went to JHS, from the very edges of its student zone in Fresh Meadows, from 1983-1987. Goose Pond Park, as it was know to the students across the street, was where the student body went to drink, smoke, get stoned and all with the constant fear of being robbed. I vaguely recall after the first shooting at the school in around 1985 or so, the perpetrator ran to the park, and reportedly threw his gun into the pond. The search for it revealed just how neglected the park had been for decades. I’m glad to hear the park is being restored, though I am sad that Jamaica High School is no more and at the same time Jamaica Hills is gentrifying. It would seem that more than the pond has been drained.


  3. DENNIS FERGUSON May 26, 2018 / 10:13 pm

    I remember in about 1940 going to Goose Pond to fish. We used a bent straight pin with a little balled up piece of bread. We caught Sunfish most of which would fall off the “hook” and the others we would through back. There were blue darning needles there too. It was a totally safe place to be. I was only about 5 years old. It’s a shame how much things have changed.


  4. Andrea Fonyo February 4, 2019 / 10:13 pm

    I used to ice skate on the pond when I was a child. Good old days!


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