Aurora Pond

Aurora Gareiss (1909-2000) was a community activist and conservationist who was a member and substantial contributor to many community and conservation organizations. She was born in 1909 to Peter and Anna M. Varvaro, both of whom came from Palermo, Italy, and settled in Bay Ridge. Aurora studied art in the United States and Italy and become an accomplished artist. She married Herbert Gareiss in 1932 and as newlyweds, they lived in Jackson Heights. In 1943, they moved with their son to Douglaston. For the next 20 years or so, Aurora worked as a housewife and an artist.

By the 1960s, the environment and its degradation became a major concern for her, but when real estate developers began filling in the marsh in the wetlands of Little Neck and Great Neck, this concern grew into action. In 1969, with the help of neighbor Ralph Kamhi, Gareiss co-founded the Udalls Cove Preservation Committee. This not only saved this land from development but spurred a host of Douglaston, Little Neck and Great Neck residents into becoming activists themselves.

Gareiss was involved with many other environmentally focused groups, including the State Northeastern Queens Nature and Historical Preserve Commission (Commissioner, 1974-1993; Vice-Chair, 1974-1977; Chair, 1978-1986); the Alley Restoration Committee; the Water Quality Management Plan Program; the Citizens Advisory Committee, Coastal Zone Management; the Research Committee, Council on the Environment of New York City; the Sierra Club; the Alert Committee, League of Conservation Voters; and Friends of the Earth. She was also a member of the Douglaston Civic Association and served as an environmental aide to State Senator Frank Padavan and U.S. Rep. Lester Wolff.

In the mid-1990s, Gareiss moved upstate to Warwick, NY, to be close to her son Herbert and his family; she passed away in 2000.


"Guide to the Aurora Gareiss Papers," Archives at Queens Public Library,