Places that Matter

Eib's Pond Park Preserve

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Eib's Pond, photo by Molly Garfinkel
Eib's Pond, photo by Molly Garfinkel
Eib's Pond, photo by Molly Garfinkel
Eib's Pond, photo by Molly Garfinkel
Eib's Pond, photo by Molly Garfinkel
Eib's Pond, photo by Molly Garfinkel
A freshwater pond and bordering wetlands available for public enjoyment
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Place Matters Profile

Information for this profile provided by New Yorkers for Parks and the Design Trust for Public Space.

Located in the northeastern section of Staten Island, Eib's Pond is New York City's largest kettle pond -- a depression created over 15,000 years ago in the wake of glacial retreat. Eib's Pond Park Preserve is a freshwater wetland that extends over seventeen acres, and the clay-bottomed pond (it's actually three ponds, two of which are connected by a small waterway) covers an impressive three acres.

The preserve is one of the most biologically abundant sites in the city. Black berries and gray birch grow throughout the area; cattail and bulrushes line the water's edge, rising several feet taller than most humans, and water lilies float gracefully on the pond's glassy surface. Snowy egrets, herons, red-winged black birds, large-mouth bass, painted turtles and muskrats all use the pond, and in June you can see monarch butterflies on their migratory path. 

As of 2012, a trip to Eib's Pond provides visitors with those rare moments of peace, those literal and figurative breaths of fresh air that relax even the most over-stimulated city-dweller. Even on a chilly, drizzly spring day, hiking around the pond listening to various birdcalls and breeze-rustled brushes is nothing short of restorative. 

A favorite fishing, swimming and skating spot for local children in the 1870s, Eib's Pond was part of a golf course, a World War II prisoner of war camp for German and Italian soldiers, and a dumping ground before again becoming a haven for Staten Island youth. The freshwater pond and bordering wetlands are located in an area with a high concentration of public housing, but until a few years ago they were largely inaccessible to the community. Residents and activists recall seeing copious amounts of garbage, including cars and refrigerators that served as makeshift footbridges, around the site.

The United States government passed the Wetland Protection Act in 1981, and shortly thereafter, the Trust for Public Land (TPL) acquired seventeen acres of the wetland surrounding Eib's Pond from Aetna Life and Casualty Company. The TPL sold the land to developers with the guarantee that the wetland portions and pond would revert back to use as a park. Indeed, in 1989 the TPL took 8.14 acres back from the developers and donated the land to the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. Two years later, the community took action toward improving their local resource. Science teacher Eileen Finnian brought her first grade students from adjacent P.S. 57 Hubert Humphrey School to help with Eib's Pond cleanup. Neighbors searched for pond life using water testing kits, nets, waders, dishpans and colanders. Volunteers continued to remove trash from the park.

In 1996, the TPL negotiated the transfer of an additional 8.8 acres to the Parks Department. Tom Paulo, then the Borough Parks Commissioner, connected the local community to the Parks Council (now known as New Yorkers for Parks), which assisted in securing a permit to remove vehicles from the pond. Together with the late Reverend Hattie Smith Davis, president of the Fox Hills Tenant Association, the Parks Council raised funds from to support collaboration with local partners in reclaiming the park, as well as several others that were in poor condition. Teenagers employed by the Parks Council's Urban Conservation Corps (UCC) joined local leaders including the Reverend Davis and community board chairman, George Caputo -- a longtime Eib's Pond fisherman, in removing garbage, constructing a cut-log walkway, clearing and wood-chipping trails, and hanging birdhouses around the park. Marpillero Pollak Architects (MPA) worked closely with community members to design and fabricate a pond-side Outdoor Classroom, and a raised walkway around the park.

As part of the Summer Youth Employment program, the Parks Council hired a high school science teacher to lead teens in creating an inventory of the site's flora and fauna. In one excercise, the teens used butterfly nets to capture non-stinging insects, and used reference guides to learn to identify them. Elizabeth Cooke Levy, former Executive Director of The Parks Council, remembers that many of the "tough" teens began the project with bad attitudes. But within a few weeks, they were all happily engaged and eager to show others what they had accomplished and learned.

Cooke Levy also recalls that, "one of the best outcomes was when the park was usable again. The Hubert Humphrey School across the street redesigned its curriculum and began to bring students into the park for science, math and writing lessons. Then they applied for and won a national award and grant based on the new curriculum!"

By 2000, the Outdoor Classroom was completed, and Celebration Day, held on August 25, offered an opportunity for the community to present awards to members and friends who had helped to restore the park. Their clean-up campaign and landscape design work had yielded a new asset for all of State Island. In 2003, the open air Outdoor Classroom received a community design award from the American Institute of Landscape Architects (ALA) and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. 

As of 2012, students from P.S. 57 still conduct year-round research at the Pond. Science teacher Patricia Lockhart, who has developed Eib's Pond-based curricula for many years, insists that "the children have taken ownership of that pond, they really maintain it." They also steward Hattie's Garden, located at the edge of the Preserve across from the school, and a green house on the school's campus.

A beautiful brochure created by the Design Trust for Public Space notes that, "New York City was once covered in freshwater wetlands. Over the last two centuries 224,000 acres of wetlands have dwindled to 2,000." Thanks to the actions of an incredible coalition of local activists, community members and conservation organizations, Eib's Pond Park will endure as both a wetland preserve and a viable learning and gathering space for the community.