A book and a blog

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

Richmond Terrace Park, Staten Island

In contrast to the uninterrupted stretches of parkland on the South Shore of Staten Island, the more urbanized North Shore is still very much a working waterfront with little available space for parkland on the water’s edge. With the current city administration working to address inequality in the distribution of parks, the Nov. 26 ribbon cutting at Richmond Terrace Park opened up a new public green space on the Kill Van Kull.

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The park offers views of the waterfront that were previously blocked off to local residents. From this park, one can look north towards Newark Bay, northwest at Shooters Island, and see the hulking remnants of ships rusting away at this historically industrial stretch of Kill Van Kull.

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Hammond Creek, Bronx

On the northbound drive taking Throgs Neck Bridge, the anchorage tower rests at the tip of the bridge’s namesake, a fortress-turned-college campus. The road then runs above a cove in the Long Island Sound before landing on the Bronx mainland. Hammond Cove separates Throg’s Neck from Locust Point at the southeastern extreme of this borough.

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This tidal inlet contains a private beach and two marinas in the most suburban part of the Bronx, where single-family houses and quiet are the most defining features.

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St. Mary’s Park, Bronx

The largest park in the South Bronx has an Olmstedian terrain of hills, outcroppings, fields and woods. What is missing at St. Mary’s Park is a water feature. Considering the park’s age (1888) and size (35 acres), the question is raised whether it had a pond in the past.

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The 1934 Praeger aerial survey of the park from the Municipal Archives, shows a ridge running down its midpoint and gentle slopes on either side. The park was about to be transformed by Robert Moses who added playgrounds and sports fields to it. But then there is the flat area on its western side, at St. Ann’s Avenue and E. 147th Street.

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East Meadow Brook, Merrick

On my childhood trips from Queens to Jones Beach, my family drove on the Meadowbrook State Parkway. The highway’s 12.5-mile route runs mostly through a thickly forested landscape before the trees give way to the salt meadows of the south shore.

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The forest on the highway’s shoulders gives the impression of wilderness, but behind it are thousands of tract houses built during the 1950s suburban housing boom. Also not visible from the highway is its namesake stream, East Meadow Brook, which also shares its name with a nearby suburban community. One place where motorists can see it is at the Merrick Road cloverleaf, where it appears as a tidal inlet. Continue reading

Harbor Haven, Queens

Before JFK International Airport took up more than 5,000 acres of wetland at the northeast corner of Jamaica Bay, the site contained a golf course, fishing shacks, and bungalow communities. Harbor Haven was a collection of homes built along a mile-long canal. No trace of it remains today.

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The first photo that I’ve found of Harbor Haven is from Vincent Seyfried’s book Old Queens, showing a structure surrounded by marshland on the edge of Jamaica Bay.

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The Pond, Manhattan

The most visible of Central Park’s waterways is The Pond, a 3.8-acre manmade waterway at the southeast corner of the park. Overshadowed by the skyscrapers of Midtown Manhattan, next to a subway station, and near the great shops of Fifth Avenue, its story is rich with nature, rejected design proposals, and various uses since its completion in 1857.

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Appearing on the map as a backward L, this waterway shelters a nature sanctuary within a few yards of Central Park South, the hard border between the dense city center and its designated greensward.

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Canalul Morii, Cluj-Napoca

In the Transylvania region of Romania, the city of Cluj-Napoca offers a history of the centuries-long tug-of-war between Hungary and Romania that shaped its identity. In the densely built city center is the Canalul Morii, or Mill Canal that follows an ancient river course, carrying the natural flow of water to the city.

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In this photo from a travel site, we see outdoor dining at 

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Squan Creek, Brooklyn

In the Brooklyn neighborhood of Sheepshead Bay, one grid-defiant road runs askew to the grid, connecting Gravesend Neck Road to the bay. Its route follows an obscure stream that used to cause flooding in the area.

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As seen in this 1933 photo from the NYPL Digital Collections, a heavy downpour brought Squan Creek back to the surface. Above is the intersection of East 11th Street and Avenue Y where the creek’s course flowed until the early 20th century as urbanization covered the stream.

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Tottenville Shore Park, Staten Island

The southernmost point in New York City and state is the neighborhood of Tottenville on Staten Island. At the tip is the 286-acre Conference House Park, which needs no introduction. A couple of blocks north of it is another park that lines the shore of Arthur Kill, a wild landscape of a seashell-covered beach, ravine, and thick tree cover.

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At only nine acres, Tottenville Shore Park is a nature preserve that also serves as a miniature bluebelt that collects runoff from nearby streets and channels it into the ocean, reducing the burden on the sewer system.

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Afon Lliedi, Llanelli

On the coast of southern Wales is a small post-industrial town with a history steeped in medieval folklore, industrial revolution, and the revival of Welsh culture. In the center of Llanelli, the Lliedi River flows beneath buildings and streets.

The photo above was taken by Hywel Williams in 2006. The spot where the river dips beneath the town was historically known as Falcon Bridge, but no marker explains for this centuries-old name or when the stream was consigned to permanent darkness.

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