Alley Pond Park

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Alley Pond Park
Alley Pond Environmental Center building.jpg
Alley Pond Environmental Center (APEC)
TypePublic park
LocationBordering Douglaston and Bayside in New York City
Coordinates40°45′30″N 73°44′50″W / 40.75833°N 73.74722°W / 40.75833; -73.74722Coordinates: 40°45′30″N 73°44′50″W / 40.75833°N 73.74722°W / 40.75833; -73.74722
Area655.294 acres (265.188 ha)
Operated byNew York City Department of Parks and Recreation
Parking200 spaces

Alley Pond Park is the second-largest public park in Queens, New York City, occupying 655.3 acres (265.2 ha).[1] The park is bordered to the east by Douglaston, to the west by Bayside, to the north by Little Neck Bay, and to the south by Union Turnpike. Cross Island Parkway travels north-south through the park, while the Long Island Expressway and Grand Central Parkway travel east-west through the park. The park primarily consists of woodlands south of the Long Island Expressway and meadowlands north of the expressway. It is run and operated by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.

Alley Pond Park was mostly acquired and cleared by the city in 1929, as authorized by a resolution of the New York City Board of Estimate in 1927. The park contains the Queens Giant, an old tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) that is the tallest carefully measured tree in New York City and probably the oldest living thing in the New York metropolitan area.[2] The Alley Pond Environmental Center, with a library, museum and animal exhibits, is located in the northern part of the park, on the south side of Northern Boulevard.


Creek, shown here at high tide, flows into Little Neck Bay, bridged by the Long Island Rail Road Port Washington Branch

The park occupies part of a terminal moraine, a ridge of sand and rock, that was formed by a glacier 15,000 years ago, at the southern terminus of the Laurentide Ice Sheet. Boulders dropped by the glaciers on the hillsides of the southern end of the park still remain, as do scattered kettle ponds formed by melting ice. The valley features both fresh water, draining into the valley from the hills and bubbling up from natural springs, and salt water from Little Neck Bay; this promotes ecodiversity, with freshwater and saltwater wetlands, tidal flats, meadows, and forests accommodating abundant bird life.[3]



What is now Alley Pond Park was once home to the Matinecock, who harvested shellfish from Little Neck Bay. The English began to colonize the area by the 1630s, when Charles I granted Thomas Foster 600 acres (240 ha), on which he built a stone cottage near what is now Northern Boulevard. Mills were built on Alley Creek by Englishmen Thomas Hicks and James Hedges, while other colonists used the valley as a route to Brooklyn, the Hempstead Plains and the Manhattan ferries. George Washington (1732–1799) is thought to have used this route for his 1790 tour of Long Island. The valley's usage as a passage, or perhaps its shape, may ultimately account for its name; in any case, an 18th-century commercial and manufacturing center there became known as "the Alley".[3]

Despite this center and light industrial uses that dated back to Hicks' and Hedges' mills, the area remained agricultural and largely unspoiled into the 20th century. In 1908, as motorists sought attractive areas for expeditions, William Kissam Vanderbilt built his privately run Long Island Motor Parkway through the area in 1908. By the 1920s, automobiles were proliferating faster, and so were people, as the population of Queens doubled during that decade.


With open space becoming less plentiful, the City of New York began setting aside land for parks, and it acquired the Alley site for this purpose on June 24, 1929. Later that year, the Parks department expanded the park into 330 newly acquired acres surrounding the alley and removed some older structures. After this acquisition had been approved, Mayor James J. Walker (1881–1946) declared that "there is no better site in Queens".[3]

In 1935, the park officially opened with ceremony attended by Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia (1882–1947) and Parks Commissioner Robert Moses. At opening, the park had 26 acres (11 ha) of new playing fields; the Alley Pond Park Nature Trail, which was the city's first of its kind; a 23-acre (9.3 ha) bird sanctuary; bridle paths; tennis court; picnic areas; and a 200-space parking lot.[3]

Later history[edit]

The Parks Department added a 2.5 miles (4.0 km) bicycle path in 1937, having acquired and converted Vanderbilt's parkway. It runs west into Cunningham Park as part of the 40 miles (64 km) Brooklyn-Queens Greenway from Bayside to Prospect Park and Coney Island.[3]

Since the 1930s, the Parks Department acted with more "zeal" for recreation than for conservation, which was the other purpose of parks.[3] The Department filled in much of the Valley's marsh lands to construct recreational facilities and roads, namely, the Long Island Expressway and Cross Island Parkway. By 1974, the Department and City had begun to make the environment a higher priority, creating the Wetlands Reclamation Project to rehabilitate the park's natural wetlands. In 1976, the Alley Pond Environmental Center opened with a mission of educational and ecological education. For conservation purposes, the City acquired over $10.9 million worth of new land for the park, and in 1993, almost $1 million was spent to restore the Picnic Grove, renovate two stone buildings, and reconstruct the playground and soccer field.[1]

In 2017, Alley Pond Park's 17-year-old African tortoise Millennium was stolen from the park. In a police investigation in which the thief returned the tortoise, he apparently had traded the 100-pound reptile for a musk turtle in Connecticut, transporting the tortoise via public transportation.[4]

Queens Giant[edit]

The "Queens Giant" measures 133.8 feet (40.8 m) tall and is probably the oldest living thing in the New York metropolitan area.
The sign posted at the site of the Queens Giant

The Queens Giant (also known as the Alley Pond Giant or Alley Pond Park Giant), at 40°45′12″N 73°44′49″W / 40.75320°N 73.74708°W / 40.75320; -73.74708, is an old tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) that is located in Alley Pond Park, being the tallest carefully measured tree in New York City, and it might also be the oldest living thing in the New York metropolitan area.[2] As of 2005, the tree measured 133.8 feet (40.8 m) tall and is probably 350-400 (and possibly as much as 450) years old.[5]

The Queens Giant is hidden within a grove, barely visible from westbound Interstate 495. The tree is near the Douglaston Plaza Mall, and is accessible by foot from Alley Pond Park. There are no signs to it, but it can be viewed in an Urban Park Ranger tour.[5] The Queens Giant is surrounded by a metal fence on all sides to protect it, and a hill and a sign describing the tree stand in front of it.[5]

A tree in Staten Island, known as the Clove Lake Colossus, has a more massive trunk, but it is only 119 feet (36 m) tall.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Alley Pond Park, NYC Parks. Retrieved September 8, 2007.
  2. ^ a b c Michael Crewdson and Margaret Mittelbach (November 10, 2000). "A Rendezvous With 2 Giants". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 July 2012.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Alley Pond Park History, NYC Parks. Retrieved August 2, 2014.
  4. ^ Gioino, Catherina; McShane, Larry (August 2, 2017). "Suspected Queens tortoise thief's mom says case is being blown out of proportion ". New York Daily News. Retrieved February 23, 2018.
  5. ^ a b c Corey Kilgannon (March 27, 2004). "In Obscurity, The Tallest And Oldest New Yorker". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 July 2012.

External links[edit]

Queens Giant: