Thursday, October 13, 2011

Graniteville Quarry Slowly Being Reclaimed As A Park

Graniteville Quarry
Katherine Romanelli and Frank Ojeda, board members of the Mariners Harbor Civic Association, survey the Graniteville Quarry in Staten Island, where a park is finally beginning to take shape. The Parks Department has been slowly acquiring the land from the state which bought it in 1999. (Photo: Kathryn Carse/Staten Island Advance)

Staten Island

When trees and shrubs were being cleared from the nearly five acre lot across from Pep Boys on Forest Avenue, Katherine Romanelli got a few phone calls from neighbors, some wondering if a new shopping mall was being developed.

As secretary-treasurer of the Mariners Harbor Civic Association, Mrs. Romanelli was happy to tell the callers that the work was being done to make Graniteville Quarry more visible and less inviting to vagrants, according to
The Staten Island Advance.

A Parks Department spokesperson said that the Land Restoration Project removed about 35 trees that were dead or dying. They also mowed, applied weed treatments, seeded for wildflowers, and removed trash and debris.

It's not the first time the Parks Department has spruced up the space. It has been doing seasonal "housecleaning," as it slowly acquired the land from the state which bought it in 1999. For its part, the Mariners Harbor Civic Association is keeping the community aware of the quarry's importance.

"It makes a difference when you get the community involved and when they see what we have and what it can be. Look at it now, it's a waste," said Mrs. Romanelli, surveying the area with board vice-president Frank Ojeda, in preparation for a cleanup on Saturday that will include a tour with quarry expert Dr. Alan Benimoff, a College of Staten Island geology professor.

The ultimate goal is to make the lot, adjacent to Christ United Methodist Church, attractive to the neighborhood and school kids, so they can enjoy it as a park and a geology exhibit.

While enthusiasm for the plan has been expressed for over a decade, there is some evidence that the civic association and Partnership for Parks are finally making some progress.

One development is the formation of a group called the Friends of Graniteville Quarry Park through which grants can be obtained and fund-raising can be done. Mrs. Romanelli hopes to harness some of the resources of the big-box businesses that have become part of Mariners Harbor in the last few years. Coca Cola Bottling Company has already taken an active role, donating refreshments and sending 40 employees to the last cleanup. It plans to be back again on Saturday with refreshments and volunteers.

The day will begin with Benimoff's guided tour. The professor has a long and deep-rooted connection to the quarry and plans for its development. In 1975, he identified a rock formation known as trondhjemite, within the diabase. It's so rare, it is known to be in only two other places – Wales and South Africa. He routinely conducts field trips with his students.

"Professor Benimoff loves to educate people on the rarity of the rock," said Mrs. Romanelli. "Last spring, the kids were so excited to hear that something 200 million years old was in the neighborhood."

The formation in the quarry is not granite, but diabase, a very hard rock that was mistaken for granite, thus the name of the surrounding area. As dirt filled the former quarry, vegetation took root, making it look like just another vacant lot.

Cans, broken glass, fast-food cartons – all indicated that people were quite comfortable hanging out. Stray clothing was not the first time signs of someone camping there has been detected. The quarry rocks have swaths of paint on them where the Parks Department has painted over graffiti.

There were also mockingbirds and a song sparrow, wildflowers and the trickle of a stream.

"It doesn't look like anything yet," admitted Mrs. Romanelli, but the Parks Department has spoken to the civic association about plans for a passive park, a place where residents can walk and relax, and signage will help explain the geological significance of the rock.

Neighborhood schools – PS 22, PS 44 and the Staten Island School for Civic Leadership – would have a living science lab were the park to be more accessible. In the meantime, some of them fulfill community service projects by helping out at the cleanups.

Now that passersby can see in from Forest Avenue, a grant for a sign identifying the area is an immediate goal.

"It will be beautiful for all of Staten Island. It is something totally different from everything else," said Ojeda.

Graniteville Quarry Park Tour and Cleanup
Meet at the Forest Avenue entrance to the Park, across from Pep Boys.

Tour by Alan Benimoff
10 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Cleanup hours
11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

More information

Read More:

Graniteville Quarry being reclaimed - as a park
The Staten Island Advance - October 12, 2011 - By Kathryn Carse

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