A book and a blog

What inspired me to write a book about the hidden waterways within New York City? Read on… (more…)

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Inwood Hill Park, Manhattan

At the northern tip of Manhattan the 196-acre Inwood Hill Park offers a variety of natural elements- cliffs, caves, forest, and the curvy shoreline of Spuyten Duyvil Creek straightened into the Harlem River Ship Canal. Being in this park gives one a hint of the Hudson Valley further to the north.

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At low tide the cove in the park appears tempting to cross, but the mud here is as soft as quicksand. In the background the Henry Hudson Bridge frames the Harlem River’s confluence with the Hudson, with the New Jersey Palisades on the horizon. The peninsula on the right used to be in the Bronx prior to the 1930s.

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Mill Creek, Erie

New York and Pennsylvania have the distinction as the only two states with seaports on the Atlantic Ocean and the Great Lakes. The Keystone State’s port on Lake Erie shares the lake’s name, and that of its Native people. Although the city does not have a subway, it has a tunnel wide enough to fit a van, running for 2.3 miles beneath the city.

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The Mill Creek Tube carries its namesake waterway out of view as eternal punishment for the devastating August 3, 1915 flood that the creek wreaked upon the city. Above, a photo from a June 2014 survey of the subterranean stream by Erie Times-News shows the size of the tube and the seemingly harmless stream when it is not carrying its maximum volume.

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Formation of Meadow Lake, Queens

The city’s largest freshwater lake offers enough details in its design and history to allow for multiple posts. Having previously focused on the Aquacade that stood at Meadow Lake, and the history of Jewel Avenue Bridge, I turn to its northwest corner, where Horse Brook had its confluence with Flushing Creek.

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On the above image, the red triangle shows the location of my parents’ home, which will be built atop the filled Horse Brook stream bed in 1950.

In the time between this 1937 photo and the opening of the 1939 World’s Fair, the transformation of the wetlands along Flushing Creek into Flushing Meadows is one of the most unrecognizable landscape alterations in the city in the past century. Around Meadow Lake, it includes a few rejected proposals worth remembering.

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The Gill, Manhattan

In the heart of Central Park is The Ramble, a 38-acre woodland where the park’s trimmed lawns give way to an Adirondack terrain of thick forest, boulders, and The Gill, an artificial brook that flows through The Ramble, emptying into The Lake.

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At its widest point, The Gill flows through Azalea Pond, the smallest named waterway in Central Park. The maze-like paths deep inside this section of Central Park serve as a sanctuary for birds, a refuge for illicit activities, but at its most basic, a place to forget that one is in the middle of Manhattan.

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Golden Pond, Queens

When there are two large parks bordering each other, would it make sense to combine them under a single name? Not when each has a unique history and namesake worth keeping. In the Queens neighborhood of Bayside, the 46-acre Crocheron Park borders the 17-acre John Golden Park, but it is Crocheron that contains an internal waterway, Golden Pond.

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I am not sure if Golden Pond has any relation to nearby John Golden Park, that is the name that it has been called for decades. This kettle pond is separated from the salt water of Little Neck Bay by a thin neck of land.

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Junction Creek, Sudbury

For a country of its size, Canada does not have too many large cities north of its Trans-Canada Highway. In the province of Ontario, one city that is further north is Sudbury, Ontario, having grown on the success of its nickel mining industry. Built in 1883 around a railway junction that spanned a creek, this stream received the name Junction Creek.

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At the exact junction and the nearby downtown of Sudbury, the creek is forced underground, but there has been plenty of effort to raise its profile in the public discussion.

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Faber Park, Staten Island

Nearly a century before Heritage Park opened on the North Shore of Staten Island, the first public green space on Kill Van Kull was donated to the city by Jenny Faber in 1906. Faber Park stood out on a waterfront dominated by shipbuilders and warehouses. Today as the city plans to cover miles of its unused waterfronts with parks, Faber Park serves as an early example.

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The park offers views of Bayonne Bridge, which recently had its deck raised 60 feet to allow for supersize cargo ships to pass below. The park offers a lawn, pool, recreation center, and a skateboarding park.

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Mad River, Waterbury

On the east side of Waterbury, the post-industrial Connecticut city that used to manufacture brass products and clocks, there is a partially covered stream with a crazy name. Its flow once powered the mills that made Waterbury prosper but after the mills departed in search of cheap labor, nature returned to the banks of Mad River.

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The covered portion of Mad River flows beneath a shopping center’s parking lot, a missed opportunity for daylighting. In other places, it is obscured by highways running along its course, such as McMahon Street, which itself is in the shadow of Baldwin Street, seen above.

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Harlem Meer, Manhattan

The northernmost of Central Park’s lakes shares its name with the neighborhood to its immediate north. Harlem Meer occupies the former confluence of Montayne’s Rivulet and Harlem Creek, a point where these two freshwater streams widened into a brackish estuary on their way towards the East River.

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In the initial allocation of land for Central Park, the site of Harlem Meer would have been excluded from the park, its untouched terrain  would likely have been buried beneath urban development. In 1863, the park was expanded north to 110th Street, encompassing the North Woods, a set of abandoned fortifications from the War of 1812 and the marsh where the creeks met.

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Kissena Corridor Park, Queens

Since this blog was launched in December 2015, I’ve documented the city’s hidden waterways with as much detail as possible, but then after publishing the pieces, I stumble upon more old photos, maps, and postcards of the published streams.

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The photo of note here is this August 1940 aerial survey of the first World’s Fair at Flushing Meadows, looking east. It is a Parks Department photo from the Municipal Archives collection. The corridor of open land between the street grids of downtown Flushing and Queensboro Hill is today’s Kissena Corridor Park, where Kissena Creek used to flow.

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