Photo of the Week

For the past forty years southern Brooklyn has been a magnet for Russian-speaking immigrants, nicknamed Little Odessa for its waterfront. One feature of this coastline is Sheepshead Bay, mistakenly nicknamed “the canal” by some newcomers but in reality, named after a fish whose image appeared on the first hotel in the neighborhood.

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Formerly a tidal strait that separated Coney Island from mainland Brooklyn, it was given a seawall shoreline in 1936, as seen in this photo from the NYPL Digital Collections. Continue reading

Sabrina’s Pool, Central Park

With so much excitement surrounding the lectures, tours and sales of the book, now is a good time to look back at the process behind its publication. When the Viele Map was selected as the cover image for my book, there were a couple of runner-ups. Here’s one image that depicts the subject of the book, a hidden waterway disappearing into a manhole. Nature and city together in one tight photo.

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It is a tributary stream of The Loch in Central Park, a constructed brook that emerges on the edge of North Meadow, flows beneath Springbanks Arch and down a ravine into The Loch, a stream in the northwest section of the park. Continue reading

Coe’s Mill, Queens


The street behind Forest Hills Cooperative Houses skews off the grid by a few degrees and was part of the ancient North Hempstead Plank Road. Reflecting its history, the one-block road is named Colonial Avenue. For nearly three centuries, the road traversed a small island in the middle of Horse Brook. On the island were a gristmill and a hotel. 

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In 1930, the Long Island Expressway obliterated all traces of the mill and its island, which was no wider than the highway. So much of early Queens history is associated with this mill, perhaps even the reason why today we speak English instead of Dutch. Continue reading

La Bièvre, Paris

Among the great cities of the world is the French capital, built around two isles on the Seine River, expanded over the centuries in concentric circles and enhanced with canals. Its parks contain naturalistic decorative lakes but beneath the neighborhood and on the routes of certain streams are traces of ancient waterways lost to history.

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One such example is La Bièvre, a stream that flowed through the city’s southern side, beginning in a natural setting but then concealed in underground conduits on its way to the Seine. The above photo was taken in 1862 by Charles Marville and can be found in the National Gallery of Art in Washington. Continue reading

Photo of the Week

As is often the case, parks are built atop buried waterways as such places are too costly to be developed. An example of such a park is Utopia Playground in the Fresh Meadows neighborhood of Queens, designated as a park in 1942.

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Prior to the playground this three-acre site was a kettle pond with a stream that contributed to Kissena Creek. Continue reading

Strack Pond, Queens

Tonight I will be speaking before the Sierra Club at the Jackson Heights Jewish Center. With this lecture in mind, here is the story of a Queens pond that disappeared and then reappeared in the woods of Forest Park.

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This is the story of Strack Pond in the Woodhaven neighborhood. Continue reading

Tank Stream, Sydney

This week, New York City Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver is visiting Sydney, Australia for City Talks on Greening Global Cities, an urban planning conference. The city is the largest and most populated on the continent-country, built on a series of peninsulas facing the Parramatta River. At the head of each bay or cove separating the peninsulas were creeks, many of which have been lost to urbanization and only recently reemerging in the public imagination.

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One such example is Tank Stream, which drained into Sydney Cove, not far from city’s iconic bridge and opera house.  Continue reading

Gayoso Bayou, Memphis

As the cost of living in New York becomes ever more expensive, I sometimes think of which other cities to consider as a future home. Employment opportunities are the top concern wherever I may move. As far as parks are concerned, Memphis, Tennessee has a diverse parks portfolio within a large city territory that holds potential for future parks as development expands within the city’s borders. Among the places where parks could expand is atop hidden waterways, which contain so much history and sustainability potential. Bayou Gayoso is one such stream, running through the  city’s center in a series of drainage channels.

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Between 1911 and the 1930s, nearly all of Gayoso Bayou had been concealed beneath the city’s streets, hiding its rich history. Continue reading

Photo of the Week

Along the course of East River, there are numerous indentations in its coastline that indicate former and existing streams that flowed into it. This week’s selected photo is a Fairchild Aerial survey of Long Island City, found in the NYPL Digital Collections.

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It looks familiar but the tip of Long Island City is very industrial and low-rise, predating the condo towers by nearly 90 years. Near the edge of the industrial district was a 500-foot inlet puncturing the shore for nearly one city block. This is the story of Anable Basin. Continue reading

Sunfish Pond, Manhattan

In the Manhattan neighborhood of Murray Hill, prewar office buildings share the blocks with brownstone residences and churches. Park Avenue South runs through this old neighborhood, offering no hints of a stream and pond that once lay at the intersection of Park Avenue South and East 31st Street.

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Here was Sunfish Pond, depicted above in Kenneth Holcomb Dunshee’s 1952 publication As You Pass By. Continue reading