New York in New York County, New York — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
Collect Pond Park
Located on Leonard Street between Centre and Lafayette Streets, this park occupies the eighteenth century site of Collect Pond. The pond was a large, 60-foot deep pool fed by an underground spring. The waters derived their name from seventeenth century Dutch settlers, who called it “kolch” meaning “small body of water”. Following the English capture of New Amsterdam (1664), the name was corrupted to “collect”. Throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Collect Pond was a favorite spot for picnics and ice-skating. In 1796, John Finch (1743-1798) launched one of the first experimental steamboats on the waters. During this time, the pond was still clean enough to use for the area’s drinking water. By the early nineteenth century, however, New York City had transformed the sparkling waters into a communal open sewer. Disgusted, local authorities initiated a project to fill the sewer with earth from an adjacent hill. In 1805, in order to drain the garbage-infested waters, designers opened a forty-foot wide canal that today is known as Canal Street.
By 1811, the City had completed the filling of Collect Pond. A neighbor known as Paradise Square soon arose over the pond’s previous site. Unfortunately, due to the area’s extremely high water table,
Five streets comprised the “Five Points”, giving the neighborhood its name: Mulberry Street, Anthony (present-day Worth Street, Cross (present-day Mosco) Street, Orange (present-day Baxter) Street, and Little Water Street (no longer exists). Numerous criminal gangs roamed the neighborhood, extorting money from residents and running prostitution rings. Many early twentieth century criminals, such as Lucky Luciano (1897-1962) and Al Capone (1899-1947), had their start in “Five Points” street gangs. Crime was only one half of the story in the “Five Points”: the high population density of the neighborhood and the existence of a subterranean swamp precipitated the outbreak of disease. Throughout the nineteenth century, nearly all of the city’s cholera outbreaks originated in the neighborhood.
The squalid conditions of the “Five Points” soon began to end after the 1890 publication of How the Other Half Lives, by Jacob Riis (1849-1914). Riis’ work was a revealing account of slum life on the Lower East Side that disturbed late-nineteenth century reformers. Within four years of the book’s appearance, the City of New York had condemned nearly all the tenements that comprised the area, ridding the community of crime and filth. The revived area is now known as the Civic Center, due to the presence of many governmental offices.
On April 28, 1960, the Board of Estimate placed the property under Parks jurisdiction. The property was formerly known as Civic Court Park due to the plethora of judiciary institutions throughout the neighborhood; the Criminal Court, Civil Court, and Family Court are all visible from this parkland. The park boasts a large, green open area circumscribed by benches and trees. Commissioner Stern changed the property’s name from Civil Court Park to Collect Pond Park, thereby providing the area with a well-deserved sense of character and history.
City of New York Parks and Recreation
Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mayor
Henry J. Stern, Commissioner
Erected 2000 by City of New York Parks and Recreation.
Location. 40° 42.953′ N, 74° 0.102′ W. Marker is in New York, New York, in New York County. Marker is on Centre Street near Leonard Street, on the left when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: New York NY 10013, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. “The Tombs” – A Mausoleum for the Living (within shouting distance of this marker); Foley Square Before 1600 (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Abraham De Peyster Statue (about 400 feet away); Foley Square c. 1880 (about 400 feet away); Biography of Dr. Sun Yat-sen (about 500 feet away); New York County Court House (about 500 feet away); Thomas Paine Park (about 500 feet away); Foley Square c. 1800 (about 600 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in New York.
Regarding Collect Pond Park. Despite the rosy description of the park, it was best known as an asphalt hangout for vagrants who would offer to make sure your car in the adjacent street parking suffered no damage while it was there – for a fee, of course.
Categories. • Colonial Era • Parks & Recreational Areas • Settlements & Settlers •
Credits. This page was last revised on March 13, 2019. This page originally submitted on March 11, 2019, by Larry Gertner of New York, New York. This page has been viewed 83 times since then. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on March 11, 2019, by Larry Gertner of New York, New York. • Andrew Ruppenstein was the editor who published this page.