Places that Matter

Big Rock

click on image for slideshow
Aviva Stampfer, 2010
Aviva Stampfer, 2010
Aviva Stampfer, 2010
Aviva Stampfer, 2010
Ned Kaufman
Neighborhood gathering place and impromptu playground
Place Details »

Place Matters Profile

The Big Rock, or Pet Rock as it has been aptly named, sits in a parking lot near LaGuardia airport, nestled between two hotels. The rock has been there as long as anyone can remember. Once surrounded by an empty lot, it was the playing ground for neighborhood children, and inspired such affection that neighbors have rallied to protect it from removal more than once. Around 1980, when a Crowne Plaza Hotel was to be  built on the site, adults who were once the kids playing on the rock rallied together to make sure that it could rest in peace. 19 years later, the rock was threatened again, by the construction of the Hampton Inn. Once again the community came together, and the rock now stands, where it always has, regal and silent. One receptionist at the Crowne Plaza hotel put it best when she said “We take care of that rock.”

A plaque accompaning the rock explains the chemical makeup of the rock:

The Ditmars Boulevard/Crowne Plaza Pet Rock

This 1000-Ton boulder was brought to its present location (probably from southern Westchester) by an ice sheet about 10,000 or 12,000 years ago. Although the boulder is impressive, it is only a small part of the ice sheet’s load. Long Island is built almost entirely of materials (boulders, sand, gravel, and clay) that were brought here by ice.

The rock is granite pegmatite. It contains pinkish white crystals of potassium feldspur up to two feet long, and smaller grains of the minerals quartz, biotite, muscovite, tourmaline, and garnet. The black tourmaline and the clear quartz are intimately intergrown on the northwestern face of the rock.

The pegmatite closely resembles the numerous “young” granites that intrude the metemorphic rocks of the Manhattan prong between Long Island Sound and Putnam County. In Westchester County the granites of this kind were originally formed between 335 and 260 million years ago, during the waning stages of the growth of the Appalachian Mountain system.

—Aviva Stampfer, August 2010