A book and a blog

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

Expressway to Boulevard on Bronx River

This past weekend, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced plans to replace the 1.3-mile Sheridan Expressway in the Bronx with a boulevard in an effort to reconnect the residents of the Crotona Park East and West Farms neighborhoods with parks along the Bronx River.

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The route of this short interstate spur is similar to that of nearly a dozen other highways within then city: it follows the course of a river.

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Silver Lake Reservoir, Staten Island

On Staten Island there are four golf courses, three operated by city, and a private one operating on state-owned land. The Silver Lake Golf Course is located on rolling terrain on the slope of the Silver Lake Reservoir.

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The shape of the lake resembles an expanded number eight with a dam across the lake’s midpoint to separate its two basins. Once a natural waterway, it was drained in 1913, lined with concrete and connected to the city’s aqueduct.

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Rattlesnake Brook, Bronx

In the northeast corner of the Bronx, Seton Falls Park takes up nearly 36 acres of woodland and freshwater marsh with a small stream flowing through the park. Its name was a curiosity for me. How is it that a park named after a waterfall does not have any waterways appearing on maps of the area? Did the stream dry up or was it buried? How big was this waterfall?

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On a winter day, the channel flowing through the park is nearly dry and covered with dead leaves. This is the surface remnant of Rattlesnake Brook that flows through Seton Falls Park

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Hutchinson River, Bronx

At the city’s extreme northeast is Pelham Bay Park, a vast greensward that is three times the size of Central Park. One could not feel more distant from the city when visiting the park’s destinations: Orchard Beach, Bartow-Pell Mansion, Split Rock Golf Course, and the trails of Hunter Island and Twin Islands. On the inland side of the park is the Hutchinson River, known to most New Yorkers as the namesake of the parkway that follows its course.

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The river has a history relating to the conflict among Puritan colonists in New England that led to the English annexation of New Netherlands.

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Pine Stream, West Hempstead

A half hour to the east of my home in Queens is the suburban community of West Hempstead. With some of my friends priced out of the city when seeking houses, this was their village of choice. Like many towns, it has its own waterway with a history, hidden behind backyards in some spots, and widening into a pond that is the centerpiece of the community.

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Halls Pond is the premier public space in West Hempstead, where the water of Pine Stream gathers in a beautiful 11-acre park.

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Weir Creek, Bronx

The eastern coast of the Bronx is often compared to New England with its rocky shoreline, fishing boats, and fancy mansions with views. While much of the eastern seaboard south of New York is comprised of sandbars and barrier islands, the New England coast is rocky and dotted with islands and inlets. In the Edgewater Park neighborhood, an inlet framed by a park is all that remains of Weir Creek.

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The park at the head of the inlet conceals archeology going back to its time as a Native encampment.

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Sherman Creek, Manhattan

At the northern tip of Manhattan island, the scenery is reminiscent of the Hudson River Valley at Fort Tryon and Inwood Hill parks. Thick forests, steep hills, and views of the Palisades across the Hudson River. The east side of Inwood on the Harlem River receives fewer visitors, but has a rich natural and human history of its own.

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Sherman Creek and Swindler Cove offer a connection to the water’s edge, serving as examples of a waterfront restored to its natural appearance. Continue reading

Lispenard’s Meadow, Manhattan

Among the most helpful Twitter accounts that relates to New York City history is @Discovering_NYC, run by a local tour guide who shares old photos, maps, and illustrations of the city’s past. Over the weekend, it posted a map of Lispenard’s Meadow, the long-forgotten wetland in what is now the Tribeca neighborhood of lower Manhattan.

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At the turn of the 19th century, the meadow was on the northern periphery of New York City. Above is an 1800 illustration of the meadow by Alexander Anderson, looking towards the Hudson River. It contained three creeks within it, occluding one that drained from Collect Pond. That creek became the route of Canal Street.

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Priory Pond, Staten Island

As the last of the city’s boroughs to become urbanized, Staten Island still has plenty of sizable properties that belong to private institutions, such as the Roman Catholic Church. One example of this is Priory Pond in the Todt Hill section of the island.

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It is one of those places where one truly feels away from the city. overlooking the pond is a former Roman Catholic retreat center that gave the pond its name. Continue reading

Calvert Vaux Park, Brooklyn

In the course of its development, the flaw in Brooklyn is that it has large parks such as Prospect Park and Marine Park, and in contrast large neighborhoods without sizable parks such as the ironically-named Borough Park and Midwood.

In an apparent attempt to correct the borough’s shortage of parks, starting with Robert Moses in the 1930s, waterfront parks were built throughout Brooklyn. Problem is that they were built together with highways, ribbons of traffic separating them from neighborhoods.

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Once such example is Calvert Vaux Park, built on landfill at a point where Coney Island Creek flows into Gravesend Bay. Continue reading