A book and a blog

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

Pratt Park, Montreal

Prior marrying me, my wife resided in the Outremont section of Montreal, where we took strolls in Pratt Park. It is one of eight parks designed between 1910 and 1931 by a legendary local trio: engineer Émile Lacroix, landscape architect Aristide Beaugrand-Champagne and horticulturalist Thomas Barnes.

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Three of them, Saint Viateur, Outremont, and Beaubien, have artificial ponds with fountains. Pratt Park was the most special of these, not only because this is where I dated my wife-to-be, but also because it has two ponds connected by a stream, with an isle, and a waterfall. It is a miniature Central Park within a single city block.

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Mill Pond Park, Bronx

On the Bronx shore of the Harlem River to the south of Yankee Stadium is the 10-acre Mill Pond Park, which opened in 2009 on the site of the Bronx Terminal Market. The name of this park suggests a forgotten waterway on the site.

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Where was the pond that gave this recent park its name?

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Map Oddities on City’s Eastern Edge

My fascination with all things GIS often brings me to take a closer look at the old maps hanging throughout NYC Parks facilities. They have so much to show for things that are no longer here, things that never got built, and the altered shorelines of the city’s waterways.

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Long before the tractors and construction cranes arrived, most of the city’s streets were mapped out in a grid pattern that demonstrated little respect for the landscape and the waterways. Continue reading

Potamogeton Pond, Queens

On the shoulder strip of parkland separating the westbound Grand Central Parkway and its service road in Hollis Hills, there is a pond tucked in the woods, once larger and with more water, reduced in size and all but forgotten.

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Even its name is unclear as signs call it Potamogeton Pond but old newspaper articles call it Pea Pond.

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Mill Creek, Queens

The flooded meadow that once separated College Point from Flushing feeds the northernmost tributary of Flushing Creek, feeding into it just a few yards shy of where it widens into Flushing Bay. Mill Creek is a common name on the regional landscape, a reminder of the role that gristmills played in supplying food to colonial settlements that became today’s neighborhoods.

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The view above from College Point Boulevard shows Mill Creek flowing into Flushing Creek at low tide. With so much of its course channeled beneath the streets, what is left of Mill Creek and its wetlands?

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Photo of the Week

Here’s a feature that I haven’t done in a while: the selected photo of the week. While visiting the administrative office at High Rock Park on Staten Island, I observed historical photos hanging on the walls. That much of this island borough has been preserved in its natural state is not a secret as nearly a third of its land is comprised of parks.

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What is fascinating about this 1930s photo of Meisner Avenue crossing Richmond Creek in Egbertville is how narrow it was and its closeness to the source of Staten Island’s largest inland waterway.

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Factory Pond, Staten Island

Among the boroughs, Staten Island has the largest number of hidden waterways, most of them still in their natural condition as this borough is often regarded as the city’s last frontier. Long before the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge connected the island to Brooklyn, its north Shore was already an established hive of industry. In the West Brighton neighborhood, Factory Pond supplied water for the New York Dyeing and Printing Works, a major employer and polluter on the North Shore.

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In the undated etching above, Factory Pond is seen behind the smokestacks, with Staten Island’s Broadway in the foreground. The pond was gone by 1908, and today on its site is Corporal Thompson Park. Here’s the story of a Staten Island pond that is no longer there.

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Alexandra Canal, Singapore

At the tip of southeast Asia is the city-state of Singapore. Its tropical climate and hilly terrain means that there are plenty of hidden waterways flowing through this little republic. The Singapore River shares the country’s name flowing through its Downtown Core on the way to the sea. The furthest reaching tributary of this river is Alexandra Canal.

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Considering the density of Singapore and its long history of neglecting such waterways, what has become of Alexandra Canal?

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Pelham Bay Lagoon, Bronx

At the northeast tip of the Bronx is an ear-shaped peninsula framed in the back by The Lagoon, a body of water separating the peninsula from the park’s larger section.

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It is a quiet and shallow waterway on the city’s periphery, as natural as it gets in a densely urbanized borough. Its shape is manmade as it once separated islands from the mainland prior to becoming part of the largest land reclamation project in the Bronx.

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Bard Avenue brook, Staten Island

In the West New Brighton neighborhood of Staten Island, one would see historic cottage homes with spacious lawns and quiet tree-lined streets. The largest park here is Snug Harbor campus through which Harbor Brook flows. Its western tributary is not as easy to access, flowing mostly through private properties.

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For a few blocks on Bard Avenue, Logan’s Spring Brook weaves through yards along the road between Moody Place and Wales Place. Continue reading