Greenbelt Native Plant Center, yesterday and today
The Parks Department’s Greenbelt Native Plant Center (GNPC), on Victory Boulevard on Staten Island, sits on the site of what was once the Mollenhoff Family Farm. From 1911 to 1992, the Molenhoffs operated a 32-acre vegetable farm that was well-renowned among small growers for its innovations in farming methods, including a mechanical watering system and steam-heated greenhouses.
In 1950, the US Army shot an ‘educational’ film about the Mohlenoff farm to be shown in Japan, extolling the virtues of the American farmer and the prosperity that small family businesses are afforded in a free society. It’s propaganda, but it’s also a terrific portrait of 1950s New York City and American values. Staten Island is described as “64 square miles of small towns and spacious farmland where life moves at a calm pace.” The film is available for streaming online, near the bottom of the GNPC’s history page.
The Native Plant Center has been the talk of the town recently–literally, it was featured in last week’s Talk of the Town section of The New Yorker for its efforts to collect and archive seed native to the New York metropolitan region. The article is only available online to subscribers. It’s in the November 16th print edition.
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