Godzilla is alive and well…and now living in Prospect Park. Of course, I’m not referring to the massive fire-breathing legend of the silver screen but to a much smaller, laid-back creature that spends a lot of time in the mud: a snapping turtle.
Sometime in the early 1970s, Godzilla simply appeared at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, across the street from Prospect Park, on Flatbush Avenue. Where the turtle came from remains a mystery, but he quickly made the Botanic Gardens his home and chose the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden as his specific domain. Robert Gundacker, a curator, named the turtle Godzilla.
For nearly 25 years, Godzilla served as a much beloved if seldom seen mascot at the Botanic Gardens. While he would lay buried deep beneath the mud searching for food, many visitors would be searching for him. “Have you seen Godzilla,” those concerned with his whereabouts would ask to the confusion of many others who (for some strange reason) were more interested in the plants and flowers.
In 1999, the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden began a series of major renovations. A new home had to be found for Godzilla. The Prospect Park Lake was chosen as the turtle’s new abode. However, Mr. G. wasn’t at all satisfied with this new arrangement. Prospect Park was, at the time, in a state of disrepair and he probably found it beneath him to be forced to hang his shell there.
Apparently Godzilla was initially homesick,” Mr. Patron [Prospect Park Alliance spokesman] wrote in an e-mail message; it “tried to leave the Park and return to the Botanic Garden — actually making his way across busy Flatbush Avenue [a danger to any form of life, let alone turtles] to the gates of the Botanic Garden.” But a maintenance crew from the garden took the snapper back to Prospect Park, “and he has since accepted it as his home,” Mr. Patron wrote.
I once caught a glimpse of Godzilla, back in 1977, when he still called the Botanic Gardens home. A frenzied cloudburst turned the gardens into a momentary spectacle of cascading waters and white rapids. From our shelter from the storm, we spotted Godzilla; there he was flowing downstream on the crest of a wave. Despite the raging winds and waters, the explosive thunder and lightning, Godzilla was laid-back with defiance. Now there was a New Yorker we could be proud of…I’m so glad he’s still here to be proud of today.