Since 1961, the “Floating Leaves” fountain was located along Parkside Memorial Chapel’s outer walkway at 98-60 Queens Boulevard in Rego Park.
The sculpture, which is approximately 25 feet tall and five feet in diameter, was recently placed on the side of the property by the owner, who is willing to donate it, as long as transportation is provided.
The fountain was designed by award-winning sculptor and dentist Dr. Arnold Stone, a native of Boston who later relocated to Bayside. He worked on the Parkside Chapel project with notable architects Henry Sandig, who was once employed by Emery Roth & Sons, as well as Robert Kasindorf.
The sculpture features bronze leaves, granting an illusion of “floating leaves” affixed to a series of angular hollow abstract shapes.
Last spring, Parkside Chapel merged with Schwartz Brothers funeral home in Forest Hills and is now undergoing demolition work, including the rare Star of David concrete grills.
Parkside Chapel was designed as a tribute to the Sinai Desert, Moses, and the Israelites. It was featured in the AIA Guide to NYC and has been a frequent stop on walking tours by historians.
“The use of large architectural fenestration to bring nature and natural daylight to the exterior and interior environments was definitely a new modern concept for this type of building and function,” said architect Denise Kasindorf Brooks, daughter of architect Robert Kasindorf. “A new vision of an urban respite landscape complemented the transition between the exterior and interior experience.”
Stone was only 49 when he passed away in 1971, but is remembered for living a skillful, influential, and diverse life. His time was divided nearly equally between sculpture and dentistry.
“Although his sculpture evolved over the years from echoes of Henry Moore to excursions in constructionism, his most recent works sought to express his aversion to war in biting, satirical terms often employing caricatures of military figures,” his obituary read.
His long list of exhibitions included The Heckscher Museum of Art in Huntington, where he won many first prize awards, as well as a one-man show at Guild Hall at East Hampton and the Alba House Gallery in Sea Cliff.
He was also a participant for years at Operation Democracy, an invitational show made possible by Friends Academy of Locust Valley.
Stone also had quite an influence on younger students such as in Sea Cliff art groups, where he taught sculpture at Lincoln House in Glen Cove. In 1969, he exhibited his works in his “metamorphosis” series consisting of bronze, stone, and steel welding at the North Shore Unitarian Center in Plandome.
In 1970, at the Ruth Dean Garden, he exhibited six large works, mostly in iron, exploring the subject of war.
Forest Hills resident Evan Francesco Boccardi called the sculpture a significant treasure.
“This is a piece of nature married beautifully to an urban setting,” he said. “A union joined together in naturalistic form, forged in sweat and brass, the natural and the artificial invoking the all-too important feeling of awe, which is increasingly rare and undervalued in today’s modern age.”
He hopes it can be relocated to a library, school, or park.
“It is my sincere hope that this piece be saved and enjoyed by the public for generations to come,” Boccardi added. “If not, then it is my hope that an institution or individual will still be able to save it for their own purposes. I simply hope that this piece continues to inspire, create a sense of peace and solemnity in individuals of all ages and backgrounds.”
“It makes me feel a sense of peace,” said Rabbi Mendy Hecht of Chabad of Forest Hills North. “I imagine that was why it was placed outside a Jewish funeral home, representing utmost peace for the soul.
“I would hope that these precious items will be preserved with utmost dignity and respect for the one who made it and what it represents,” he added. “These are quality items that we don't find today.”