Queensbridge Park, Queens

In the shadow of Queensborough Bridge is a ten-acre waterfront park tucked between the bridge, public housing, and a power plant. Queensbridge Park is one of seven unconnected parks on the western shore of Queens facing Manhattan.

The water’s edge here is riprap, rocks deposited along a seawall to reduce erosion from waves and currents. These rocks were dropped here in 2014 after the seawall suffered damage from Hurricane Sandy in late 2012. As is the case with much of the East River facing Manhattan, the shoreline is almost perfectly straight, resembling a canal rather than a tidal strait.

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Milburn Creek, Baldwin

Some of Long Island’s hidden streams flow through state parks (Valley Stream), and others flow alongside highways that share the name (Meadowbrook). But a truly hidden stream doesn’t have such counterparts to put in on the map. This is the story of Milburn Creek, which flows for three and a half miles on the south shore of Nassau County. Along the way, it flows past the backyards of Roosevelt, Baldwin, and Freeport.

In this scene near the headwaters of the creek, we are looking upstream at Westbrook Lane and Brookside Avenue on the border of Roosevelt and Baldwin. The stream emerges a block to the north where the eastbound ramp of the Southern State Parkway touches on Brookside Avenue.

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Schodack Brook, West Hempstead

Having written previously about Pine Stream and Mill River that flow through the suburban community of West Hempstead, there is a third hidden waterway here that begins its course alongside a train station that may have been named after this stream, or perhaps not.

This very obscure stream appears on the surface in a ravine next to the Lakeview station on the West Hempstead Branch, looking south from Eagle Avenue, which crosses this single-track line at the source of the stream. The sources of this stream have been paved over and developed as tract homes marched across this landscape of gardens and farms. Water appears here only after a substantial rainfall. Lakeview is not an official village, and most letters addressed to this community have it as part of West Hempstead, itself not an official village but part of the larger town of Hempstead. So the question here is whether Lakeview is named for a long-forgotten pond on Schodack Brook, or the much larger Hempstead Lake that is a ten-minute walk east of this station?

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Glen Cove Creek, Glen Cove

On Long Island, there are various units of local government: villages, towns, and cities. A town can have more people than a city. These are merely legal designations bestowed by the state to describe the responsibilities of a municipality. Cities tend to have more say in their governance, and control over schools and utilities. One such city is Glen Cove, built at the head of an inlet on Hempstead Bay in 1668. That inlet is Glen Cove Creek, fed by a stream that originates further inland. In the downtown of Glen Cove that stream is hidden beneath a parking lot.

In recent years plans have been made to transform the tidal section of the creek into an upscale residential district, but the underground section remains hidden from the attention of urban planners. The creek has a boxy ferry terminal with a sail-shaped window that seeks to offer future commuter service to Manhattan and Connecticut.

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MacNeil Park, Queens

In my effort to document some of the city’s landforms that just out into the water, the tip of College Point offers a landscape of hills with views of Manhattan, the Bronx, and Rikers Island. Hermon A. MacNeil Park honors a famous local sculptor, but it also obscures the previous owners of this tip, the Chisholm family who had a mansion on the site of this park with great views of the East River.

The tip of College Point appears on old maps as Chisholm Point, after the family that owned it from 1848 through 1930. On the left is Hunts Point and on the right where Whitestone Bridge has its Bronx landing is Ferry Point. Between them are the mouths of Bronx River, Pugsley Creek, and Westchester Creek. The resolution is small, but there is a NYCFerry boat on the other side at the Soundview landing. Also visible here is College Point Reef, a rock topped by a signal.

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Mill River, Springfield Mass.

The largest city in the western third of Massachusetts has one of the most common names among American places: Springfield, and much of its history is the result of a stream with a very generic name: Mill River. This Springfield happens to be the first in the country to have this name, although I’m not as sure about Mill River.

Springfield Announces Repairs To 'High Hazard' Dam | WAMC

The water of this stream powered the country’s first great armory and other industries that developed the economy of New England in the 19th and 20th centuries. This river’s reservoir, dams, and course have been subject to more than two centuries of pollution and neglect, but there is also potential for this stream to serve as a green corridor connecting the city’s interior to its waterfront.

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Stony Point, Bronx

Having documented nearly all of New York City’s named hidden waterways, I’m taking this opportunity to tell the story of land forms that jut out into the water whose locations impacted the development of neighborhoods and the city. Tips such as Hunters Point, Breezy Point, Throgs Neck, and Clason Point appear as neighborhood names, but then there are forgotten ones such as Stony Point, the southernmost place in the Bronx, the city’s mainland borough.

As the tip of Stony Point is on private property ringed by fences and watched by security cameras, the nearest public access to it is the dead-end of East 132nd Street, the southernmost street in the Bronx. At this location, one is looking east towards Rikers Island and Lawrence Point, the northern tip of Astoria, Queens.

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Wavecrest Lake, Queens

The Rockaway Peninsula offers plenty of sights for urban explorers and historians with its alleys, old buildings, the fort at its tip, and numerous inlets on the side facing Jamaica Bay. Until recently I did not know that the Rockaways had its its own internal waterway.

Wavecrest Lake existed at the turn of the 20th century, surrounded by mansions and summer homes of the rich at a time when the peninsula served as the city’s seaside retreat.

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Hidden Waters of Manhasset

In F. Scott FitzGerald’s classic novel The Great Gatsby, West Egg is the pseudonym for Great Neck and the much more upscale peninsula facing it is East Egg, which in reality is Manhasset, a collection of villages jutting into the Long Island Sound. hidden behind the mansions are brooks and ponds whose names relate to past landowners and their once-sizable estates overlooking Manhasset Bay.

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The Leeds Pond Preserve, originally built as the Norwood farm and owned by the Sizer family, was purchased by Herman Goldman, a prominent maritime attorney and tax expert, as a retreat to entertain friends and family.

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Scenes of The Lily Pond, Manhattan

In preparation for an online lecture on the waterways of Central Park for the nonprofit Landmark West, I returned to the site of The Lily Pond in Central Park to follow the course of this dried-up stream.

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The shortest of the park’s manmade streams, it descended a steep cascade with outlines of pools that can be seen today. Looking down at the dirt, one can ask how much water would be needed here to make the Lily Pond cascade flow again.

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