New York is a city of islands but most of Queens’ border with neighboring Nassau County runs on land. On the southeastern extreme of mainland Queens is the neighborhood of Rosedale, which abuts the upscale Five Towns communities. Here, the border takes on water, running through Hook Creek.
The border crossing here is Hungry Harbor Road, a curiosity in name that’s a block away from the southern end of Francis Lewis Boulevard, the borough’s longest continuous street.
Straightening the Hook
Comparing the 1924 and 2010 DoITT CityMap aerials, one sees Hook Creek emerging at Sunrise Highway and meandering south towards Hungry Harbor Road, where it takes a jog to the southwest on its way to Jamaica Bay. Over the decades the stream was filled north of Hungry Harbor Road and straightened to its south.
In conjunction with the engineering of the stream, the county line was also straightened, an act that can only be done with the approval of state lawmakers. Often, political boundaries are not as fluid as waterways, resulting in oddities such as the Kentucky Bend, Corona, Tennessee, Kaskaskia, Illinois, and closer to home- two blocks of Baldwin Street in the Wakefield neighborhood of the Bronx.
Crossing the border
At Hook Creek Boulevard, the only indication for motorists that they’ve entered the world’s capital is “NYC LAW: NO TURN ON RED” followed by “SPEED LIMIT 25.” Changes in street furniture and numbers on streets also indicate that you’re in New York City. Playing catch-up with the hip borough next door, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz introduced the classy “World’s Borough” signs at some of the border crossings in Queens. But not at this one. It’s so remote.
On the opposite shore of Hook Creek looking towards North Woodmere is a regulation size sign announcing the name of the village and its speed limit. On the next lamppost is an indicator for Nassau County. Perhaps the village board can come up with a slogan at their next meeting. Hungry Harbor Road becomes Rosedale Road but you wouldn’t know it.
A few blocks away there is another Hungry Harbor Road deep inside North Woodmere but it is unrelated and unconnected to this one. On the map below, the one in Queens is circled and the other one is highlighted.
The hamlet of North Woodmere is within the Village of Valley Stream, within the Town of Hempstead. Culturally the hamlet is associated with Woodmere to its south, a unit within the Five Towns (also within the Town of Hempstead) I know my local politics having worked in this region for a local weekly paper back in 2011.
On the Creek
You’d think that having a creek in one’s backyard would mean having a dock for a boat but here the property line is at the water’s edge. Encroachment into the water could result in penalties against the property owners.
The headwaters of the creek lie beneath the parking lot of nearby Green Acres Mall. Urban explorer Nathan Kensinger appears to have found the spot where Hook Creek emerges to the surface. Prior to 1956, the mall was a small airport. It operated until 1947.
Looking north from the Queens side of Hook Creek, we see a sign declaring the thin shoreline strip on as property of Nassau County. The house on the extreme left is in Queens. Thus, the border here actually runs on land rather than water, making this section of Hook Creek entirely within Nassau County.
Looking south, Queens is on the right and North Woodmere is on the left. In the distance, the Valley Stream creek merges into Hook Creek and waterway makes a sharp turn to the right.
Downstream on Hook Creek
What was a salt marsh in 1924 has been entirely consumed by tract housing by 2010. As late as the 1930s, the county line followed the winding creek. With the stream straightened, so has the county line. A portion of the wetland has been preserved as Idlewild Park. Notice that Huxley Street runs askew to the Rosedale grid. It marks the route of the Cedarhurst Cutoff, a rail line abandoned in 1934. A few homes here have docks but for those that do not, the Parks Department built a canoe launch in 2007 at the foot of Huxley Street.
There is one property on Hook Creek that remains empty, owned by developer Kavian Hamid. Considering the topography of the site, it is best left untouched or used as a bioswale.
A Working Man’s Venice
Beyond Idlewild Park, the creek flows past the Nassau enclave of Meadowmere Park and its Queens counterparts Meadowmere and Warnerville, widening into the Head of Bay and Jamaica Bay. A 75-foot pedestrian bridge over Hook Creek in this section is the only border crossing where one may travel west from Queens to get into Nassau County, as a result of a bend in Hook Creek.
These communities merit their own blog post in the near future.