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Clove Lakes Park

Leeseberg Perennial Garden

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

This garden honors Doctor Norbert H. Leeseberg (1930-1995), an educator and community activist in Staten Island. The oldest of ten children, Leeseberg left home at age 13 to attend Concordia Lutheran prep school in River Forest, Illinois. He attended Concordia Teachers College where he excelled in football, becoming the school’s star fullback. During the summers, Leeseberg supported himself by delivering ice.

Leeseberg received his Bachelor’s Degree from Concordia in 1952. The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod then assigned him to Staten Island to found a school for the St. John’s Lutheran congregation on nearby Manor Road. He served as principal of the school for 15 years while pursuing his own education, earning a Master’s of Education from Wagner College and a Doctorate in Education Administration and Supervision from New York University in 1966. A year later, Leeseberg joined the Wagner College faculty as Associate Professor of Education.

By 1970, Leeseberg had become an Associate Dean of Wagner College. In 1978, he was promoted to Senior Vice President for Administration, and in 1990, became Chairman of the Education-Psychology Department and the interim Chairman of the Department of Nursing. His selfless dedication to the school earned him the nickname of “Mr. Wagner College.”

In addition to his work at Wagner, Leeseberg held various positions at the Staten Island Hospital (now Staten Island University Hospital) dating back to 1970, when he served on the hospital’s board and its executive committee. In 1979, Leeseberg worked with the board of the S.I.H. Organization, the former parent company of the hospital. Leeseberg played an active role in the 1987 consolidation of two of the borough’s hospitals, Staten Island Hospital and Richmond Memorial Hospital. In 1990, and again in 1994, Leeseberg was elected chairman of the hospital’s board.

His dedication to Staten Island is shown by his service to the local American Red Cross, the Staten Island Rotary Club, the Frank D. Paulo Memorial Society, the Staten Island Zoo, the Center for Migration Studies, Eger Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center, R.S.V.P./Serve and the Network of Volunteer Administrators (N.O.V.A.). In his free time, Leeseberg became a master of a wood-cutting technique called marquetry. His Stations of the Cross on the walls of Wagner’s Knubel Chapel demonstrate his expertise in this art form.

In 1989, the city purchased the land for this garden, which lies in the southeast corner of Clove Lakes Park, near the intersection of Victory Boulevard and Clove Road. Originally occupied by small houses, a developer purchased the land with the intention of constructing 38 townhouses and a fast-food restaurant. Parks, however, sought to acquire the property and add it to Clove Lakes Park before the development got underway. The city paid approximately $4,700,000 to acquire the land.

The $1,318,000 design and construction, funded by Council Member Jerome X. O’Donovan, was completed in 2001. It provided for the design and construction of Leeseberg Perennial Garden. The one-acre garden contains benches, chess and checker tables, and a pavilion for concerts and entertainment. The funding also provides for bocce, horseshoe, and shuffleboard courts, which are scheduled for construction in 2001. In addition to the elms (Ulmus), Norway maples (Acer platanoides), and red maples (Acer rubrum) that predate the garden, Parks planted a variety of ferns, flowering shrubs, Dogwood trees (Cornus kousa), and several Pin oaks (Quercus palustris).

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