In the Prince’s Bay section of Staten Island is a parcel preserved amid the tract houses that interrupts the local street grid. It is one of 15 designated natural areas on the island that are under the purview of the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation.
Not much to see here but the signage is clear: this is Bloessers Pond, a 14-acre Wildlife Management Area that is a remnant of Sandy Brook, which drains into nearby Lemon Creek.
The largest cemetery in Brooklyn lies atop a knob-and-kettle terrain shaped by the last ice age, with dramatic views of New York Harbor and Manhattan. Like its contemporary Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx and the Evergreens cemetery on the Queens border, Green-Wood Cemetery has a landscape that respects topography with winding roads and four natural ponds that predate the cemetery.
The largest of the cemetery’s ponds is Sylvan Water, as seen here in a 2007 Forgotten-NY tour. Each of the lakes is ringed by the resting places of some of the city’s most famous individuals, an calm view for their admirers, and those who visit to observe birds, architecture, and nature.
Near the northern border of Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx is a natural lake that shares its name with the cemetery and the surrounding neighborhood. It is a pleasant feature in the park-like graveyard that contains the remains and monuments for some of New York’s most famous people.
This water feature and the cemetery itself are contemporaries of Brooklyn’s Green-Wood and Evergreens cemeteries, which also have the appearances of a “burial park.” And like any distinguished park, they preserved their ponds while the surrounding landscape filled up with bodies and monuments.
Along the glacial terminal moraine that stretches the length of Long Island are numerous kettle ponds that formed from chunks of ice that fell off the ice cap and melted in place. Some of these ponds are there today, such as Strack Pond and Potamogeton Pond, and other were buried such as Redder’s Pond and Jackson Pond.
Then there was Delta Lake, the triangular pond deep inside Cypress Hills Cemetery that was photographed by a city worker in 1927 ahead of its condemnation in favor of a parkway that would slice through the cemetery.
In an age when available cemetery plots are dwindling in New York, I feel fortunate that my family members planned ahead by reserving their final resting places in the same cemetery, allowing for the convenience of paying respect to multiple individuals in one visit. What it offers with access, Mount Hebron Cemetery lacks in design with most of its tombstones packed tightly next to each other. Roadways and walking paths are so narrow that one can trip on a tombstone.
The city’s cemeteries weren’t always like this. In the 19th century, they were deigned in the appearance of burial parks, with naturalistic landscaping, winding paths and water features. One such example is Memorial Park Lake at Maple Grove Cemetery in Kew Gardens, Queens. The above photo relates to a visit in the 1950s by local resident Jack Kerouac, which inspired a poem. Continue reading