Willowbrook Lake, Staten Island

Bordering on the campus of the College of Staten Island is a 215-acre woodland with a lake that is part of the larger set of connected parks, the Staten Island Greenbelt. Willowbrook Lake shares its name with the surrounding park and has a rustic log cabin-style boathouse that is used as the park’s office.

lake view

The lake appears natural but was carved out of the landscape after the city acquired Willowbrook Park. It is the most visible section of Willow Brook, a hidden waterway that flows across central Staten Island.

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Fort Totten Ponds, Queens

On the northeast tip of Queens is a 249-acre peninsula that was the last military base in the borough prior to its closing in 1995. A favorite haunt of urban explorers, Fort Totten Park may not receive as many tourists as Governors Island, but the story of this base-turned-park has been documented by many writers. For the purposes of my book, I’ve focused on the two ponds separating the fort from mainland Queens.

totten 1.jpg

They are nearly impossible to access, as the larger pond is on the part of Fort Totten that has been retained by the army for its reserves, and the other is enveloped by marshes off the shoulder of Cross Island Parkway. Continue reading

Wreath Interpretations: 721 Fifth Avenue

When I’m not documenting the city’s waterfront parks and hidden waterways, I make art about the city’s history. In this year’s NYC Parks’ 36th annual Wreath Interpretations winter holiday art show, I have a wreath titled 721 Fifth Avenue. The piece depicts one of the most newsworthy addresses in Midtown Manhattan.

bonwit present

The wreath depicts elements form the demolished Bonwit Teller department store and the Trump Tower that succeeded it.

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Ocean Avenue Bridge, Brooklyn

When I thought that I knew all that there is to know about a particular waterway, I stumble upon drawings of unrealized visions for such streams. On Brooklyn’s Sheepshead Bay one can walk on the longest pedestrian-only bridge across a waterway that is inside a borough, the Ocean Avenue Footbridge. On the mainland side of the bridge, Ocean Avenue is very wide as one of Brooklyn’s major north-south routes, running for 5.5 miles north to Prospect Park.

sheepshead.bridge

In reality the bridge is a block to the west of Ocean Avenue. But the real question here is why is the three-block Manhattan Beach segment of Ocean Avenue so wide if it does not connect to any other major roads?

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Rejected Landscapes for Flushing Meadows

The radiating boulevards of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park have been a defining feature of the park since they were proposed in 1937 by Gilmore Clarke and Charles Rapuano as part of the great transformation of a former ash dump into a thousand-acre World’s Fair site and park. At the time, the flat and barren terrain gave Flushing Meadows the look of a blank slate, open to any ideas that would shape its future as a park.

cornell aerial

From the Cornell University archives, a 1936 Fairchild Aerial survey shows Meadow Lake beginning to take its form. The core of the park to the north of the lake is the subject of this essay. Had the Versailles-inspired boulevards not been selected, what would have been the park’s appearance?

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Wreath Interpretations: A Look Back

Taking a break from documenting the city’s waterfront parks and hidden waterways, I would like to share an artwork that I made last year for the NYC Parks’ 35th annual Wreath Interpretations winter holiday art show. Titled NYC Parks Now and Then, my wreath depicts some of New York’s best-known parks from the oldest to the newest.

Malcolm Parkie

In a photo taken by agency photographer Malcolm Pinckney, I stand with my work which has NYC Parks’ maple leaf logo in its center. Now let’s take a closer look at its details. Click on the bold names for their histories as I take you on a citywide tour. Continue reading

Bush Terminal Park, Brooklyn

On the industrial waterfront of Brooklyn’s Industry city is a new park with two obscure entrances that offers sweeping views of New York Harbor. Bush Terminal Park opened in 2014 on a reclaimed stretch of shoreline that previously operated as a seaport.

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The park offers a naturalistic scene on a harbor ringed by piers and warehouses in a corner of Brooklyn that is lacking in sizable parks.

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