Strack Pond, Queens

Tonight I will be speaking before the Sierra Club at the Jackson Heights Jewish Center. With this lecture in mind, here is the story of a Queens pond that disappeared and then reappeared in the woods of Forest Park.

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This is the story of Strack Pond in the Woodhaven neighborhood. Continue reading

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Redder’s Pond, Queens

While exploring the campus of Saint John’s University in the Hillcrest neighborhood of Queens, I supplemented my research with old aerial surveys and maps of the site. At the southeastern corner of the campus was once a pond that is entirely covered by a highway. Happy thoughts of a pastoral ice skating site are tempered by headlines of drowning victims at Redder’s Pond.

What happened to this pond and does anyone besides me care that it existed? Continue reading

Jackson Pond, Queens

At the southeast corner of Forest Park in the Queens neighborhood of Richmond Hill is Jackson Pond Playground. Bound on the south by Myrtle Avenue and on the north by the park’s pine grove, this playground serves as a reminder of a kettle pond that once occupied this site.

Jackson PondPhoto circa 1960 – Courtesy Frank Loeber Collection, AS SEEN ON RICHMOND HILL HISTORICAL SOCIETY.

The pond was located in a natural depression, shaped like an oval, and used as an ice skating rink following the development of Richmond Hill in 1869. On the southern side of Myrtle Avenue facing the pond, the Forest Park Lodge served as the countryside home of Abram S. Hewitt. A former congressman and New York City mayor, he was described by one contemporary as “the most useful man in Washington.”

The City of Brooklyn, in its last major parks expansion prior to its merger with New York City, acquired Brooklyn Forest in 1895, laying its out as Forest Park. The former Hewitt home then served as the office of park superintendent Jarvis Jackson, whose name was given to the pond.

From 1922, the Parks Department issued repetitive proposals to fill in Jackson Pond, failing each time in the face of community opposition as residents feared losing their beloved ice skating spot. Yet changes did take place. In 1931, the pond’s muddy bottom was coevered with brownstone pebble gravel. In 1941, a concrete shoreline was installed in a design similar to Kissena Lake and Bowne Pond.

In 1966, the lake was dried and covered with concrete after the city determined it to be an unsafe ice-skating site. Basketball courts were installed on the oval-shaped outline of the lake.

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Aerial surveys of Jackson Pond in 1951 and 1996.

The playground was renovated in 2001 with two small fountains to commemorate the pond that was once there.

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In the center of the plaza intersection, a bronze statue of a soldier looks to the south. Designed by Joseph Pollia, the First World War memorial was dedicated in 1926. Known as My Buddy, it depicts a serviceman pausing to look down at the grave of a fallen comrade. The statue stands on a pedestal designed by William Van Alen, the architect of the Chrysler Building. On the pedestal, a plaque lists the names of the 71 Richmond Hill residents killed in the war.

Across Myrtle Avenue from the pond site is Jayne Carlson Triangle, a playground named after a local community activist who served as Vice-President of the Richmond Hill Block Association and organized the annual Park Fair at this plaza. She died in 2000.