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STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — What are those dome-like tents in Travis, and what’s happening there?

The tent structures are called Quonset huts (an old military term, or hoop houses), and they are growing native plants from seed, according to Nate McVay, the nursery manager at the Greenbelt Native Plant Center.

McVay tells us that the Sanitation and Parks departments took over the Mohlenhoff family farm in 1992. Carl Mohlenhoff became the nursery manager until he retired in June 2002. Ed Toth initiated the idea of a native plant center and pressured the city to create what we have here today.

Lucy Rubino, the Greenbelt Native Plant Center director, oversees the 13-acre facility of greenhouses, nurseries and a seed bank complex, also writing grants for much-needed funding.

The work done to produce these native plants is genuinely remarkable. The nature center supplies locally appropriate seeds and plants and offers advice on planning projects.

The workers put the plants here through various stages of meticulous care, from collecting the seeds, procuring them and cataloging them, planting the seedlings, and watching them come to fruition, then selling them to local consumers. It is a labor of love and patience for sure.

The mission statement on the website says: “Only plants from locally collected seed can maintain the integrity of local populations.”

Many of the original buildings still exist and have been re-purposed.

The Greenbelt Native Plant Center is an extraordinary place, doing fantastic work, restoring balance to our environment, and reminding us of what Staten Island was really like, once upon a time.

Native Plant Center

Richard Lynch, director of the Greenbelt Native Plant Center at the William T. Davis Wildlife Refuge, describes the rescue operation in 1990. (Staten Island Advance/Steve Zaffarano)

Native Plant center

This aerial view shows the Mohlenhoff family farm in 1934, Travis, Staten Island. The view shows farm fields with a house and barn in the center; a road runs along the right edge of the fields, and houses and trees are visible at right and in the distance. (Staten Island Historical Society)

Native Plant center

In this September 1939 view of the Mohlenhoff family’s farm on Victory Boulevard in Travis, two men stand with a horse that is harnessed to a horse-drawn seeder. (Collection of Staten Island Historic Society)

Native Plant Center

Some of the farm equipment at Mohlenhoff family farm; 3808 Victory Boulevard, is shown in this 1988 photo. (Staten Island Advance)

Native Plant Center

Catherine DelTufo, horticulturist, and Tim Williams, field manager of urban forests and education for the Parks Department, walk through a greenhouse at the Native Plant Center in 1995. (Staten Island Advance/Mike Falco)

native plant center

The Greenbelt Native Plant Center on Victory Boulevard in Travis sits on 13 acres of the old Mohlenhoff family farm. It has been there since the early 1990s, and is operated by the city Parks Department. Many of the old buildings on the site are still in use in 2022. (Staten Island Advance)staten island advance

native plant center

The tent structures are called Quonset huts, an old military term, or hoop houses, as Nate McVay, nursery manager, and fellow staff here call them at the Greenbelt Native Plant Center. They are shown on April 1, 2022. (Staten Island Advance/Jan Somma-Hammel)staten island advance

native plant center

The view captures Freshkills Park from the back of the Greenbelt Native Plant Center on Victory Boulevard in Travis in 2019. (Tom Wrobleski/Staten Island Advance) staten island advance

native plant center

Nate McVay displays a collection of pitch pine seeds on April 1, 2022. (Staten Island Advance/Jan Somma-Hammel)staten island advance

native plant center

Lucy Rubino is director of the Greenbelt Native Plant Center, a 13-acre New York City Department of Parks & Recreation facility. She oversees the greenhouses, nurseries, and seed bank complex and writes funding much-needed grants. She is shown on April 1, 2022. (Staten Island Advance/Jan Somma-Hammel)staten island advance

native plant center

Plants have started to sprout at the greenhouses in the Greenbelt Native Plant Center on June 16, 2011. (Staten Island Advance/Irving Silverstein) staten island advance

native plant center

Travis looked more like Kansas as Joe Spinelli struggled to secure tarpaulins on the greenhouses at the Greenbelt Native Plant Center in 2012. ( Staten Island Advance / Irving Silverstein ) staten island advance

native plant center

These are flowering dogwood seeds. The seed collection contains upwards of 600 species and is sold to mostly NYC Parks in 2022. (Staten Island Advance/Jan Soma-Hammel)staten island advance

native plant center

Ferns are grown from spores at the Greenbelt Native Plant Center, Travis, on April 1, 2022. (Staten Island Advance/Jan Somma-Hammel)staten island advance

native plant center

The Greenbelt Native Plant Center produces soil for the gallon-sized plants on April 1, 2022. (Staten Island Advance/Jan Somma-Hammel)staten island advance

native plant center

Catherine Molanphy, greenhouse coordinator at the Greenbelt Native Plant Center, is hard at work on April 1, 2022. (Staten Island Advance/Jan Somma-Hammel)staten island advance

native plant center

The greenhouses in the Native Plant Center in Travis, as seen from Richmond Avenue, are wrapped for the winter on March 18, 2010.(Staten Island Advance)staten island advance

native plant center

Thriving trees grown from seed are shown at the Native Plant Center in June of 1999. (Staten Island Advance)staten island advance

native plant center

The Greenbelt Native Plant Center keeps extensive detailed notes on every seed collected. (Staten Island Advance/Jan Somma-Hammel)staten island advance

native plant center

The Greenbelt Native Plant Center keeps extensive detailed notes on every seed collected. (Staten Island Advance/Jan Somma-Hammel)staten island advance

native plant center

Here a staff member separates the seeds from the general collection of brush on April 1, 2022. (Staten Island Advance/Jan Somma-Hammel)staten island advance

native plant center

Greenhouses at the Greenbelt Native Plant Center in Travis are shown on April 1, 2022. (Staten Island Advance/Jan Somma-Hammel)staten island advance

native plant center

Sumac plants grow in the greenhouse at the Native Plant Center, Travis, on April 1, 2022. (Staten Island Advance/Jan Somma-Hammel)staten island advance

native plant center

So much meticulous work goes on here collecting and categorizing seeds from around Staten Island. Every plant they grow is from seed. The Greenbelt Native Plant Center is an extraordinary place, doing fantastic work. (Staten Island Advance/Jan Somma-Hammel)staten island advance

native plant center

The sign that hangs in the office building at the Greenbelt Native Plant Center on April 1, 2022 gives the history of the land. (Staten Island Advance/Jan Somma-Hammel)staten island advance

native plant center

The Greenbelt Native Plant Center on Victory Boulevard in Travis sits on 13 acres of the old Mohlenhoff family farm. It has been there since the early 1990s, and is operated by the city Parks Department. Many of the old buildings on the site are still in use in 2022, such as this barn. (Staten Island Advance/Jan Somma-Hammel)staten island advance

native plant center

This is the in-ground growing land of the Greenbelt Native Plant Center on April 1, 2022. (Staten Island Advance/Jan Somma-Hammel)staten island advance

native plant center

An interior view of the new greenhouse at the Greenbelt Native Plant Center, Victory Boulevard, is seen in this 2001 photo. (Staten Island Advance)staten island advance

native plant center

The Greenbelt Native Plant Center on Victory Boulevard in Travis looks to restore ecosystems to the original condition they were in before humans encroached. This grow house, shown in 2019, contains high marsh cordgrass that will be planted at Jamaica Bay. (Staten Island Advance)staten island advance

native plant center

The Greenbelt Native Plant Center on Victory Boulevard in Travis is shown in 2019. (Tom Wrobleski/Staten Island Advance)
staten island advance

native plant center

The final seeds, cleaned and separated, are shown on April 1, 2022. (Staten Island Advance/Jan Somma-Hammel)staten island advance

native plant center

One of the main jobs of the Greenbelt Native Plant Center on Victory Boulevard in Travis, shown in 2022, is to restore plant life at Freshkills Park to the way it was before the land was used as a city dump. (Staten Island Advance/Jan Somma-Hammel)staten island advance

native plant center

Salt marsh cordgrass is shown at the Greenbelt Native Plant Center on April 1, 2022. (Staten Island Advance/Jan Somma-Hammel)staten island advance

native plant center

Piles of soil for planting are shown at the Greenbelt Native Plant Center on April 1, 2022. (Staten Island Advance/Jan Somma-Hammel)staten island advance

native plant center

Sugar maple trees, shown on April 1, 2022, are grown for a project in the Catskills. The Greenbelt Native Plant Center is an extraordinary place, doing fantastic work. (Staten Island Advance/Jan Somma-Hammel)staten island advance

native plant center

Red Maple trees are ready to go at the Greenbelt Native Plant Center on April 1, 2022. (Staten Island Advance/Jan Somma-Hammel)staten island advance

native plant center

In 2001, Borough President Guy Molinari chats with Carl Mohlenhoff, former owner of the Native Plant Center in Travis. (Staten Island Advance)staten island advance

native plant center

Scarlet oak seed has produced a radical in the Greenbelt Native Plant Center on April 1, 2022. The next step is for them be placed in soil and small pots. (Staten Island Advance/Jan Somma-Hammel)staten island advance

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