Stony Point, Bronx

Having documented nearly all of New York City’s named hidden waterways, I’m taking this opportunity to tell the story of land forms that jut out into the water whose locations impacted the development of neighborhoods and the city. Tips such as Hunters Point, Breezy Point, Throgs Neck, and Clason Point appear as neighborhood names, but then there are forgotten ones such as Stony Point, the southernmost place in the Bronx, the city’s mainland borough.

As the tip of Stony Point is on private property ringed by fences and watched by security cameras, the nearest public access to it is the dead-end of East 132nd Street, the southernmost street in the Bronx. At this location, one is looking east towards Rikers Island and Lawrence Point, the northern tip of Astoria, Queens.

On the Map

Shortly after the western half of the Bronx was annexed by New York City, a map was drafted to extend the street grid of Manhattan further north. At the time, Stony Point was an undeveloped hill separated from the mainland by a salt marsh that made it an island during a high tide or storm surge. The railroad line here opened in 1872, running along the Long Island Sound from the South Bronx to New England destinations. South Brother Island and the Oak Point railyard appear near the top of this map.

The upper reach of the East River appeared on maps of that time as part of Long Island Sound as it was much wider and had a coastline of multiple coves and tips similar to the Long Island Sound further east. On the lower left corner of this map, Bronx Kill separated the mainland from Randalls Island. On this 1840s map, the salt meadow is marked, and a “stone house” appears at Stony Point, likely its namesake. At the top right of the map is Barretto Point, which I documented earlier.

On the 1910 map of the South Bronx, we see the street grid running from the Harlem River to the East River. Mott Haven Canal, Mill Brook, and the unnamed pond inside Saint Mary’s Park are all visible here. On the far right is Port Morris, a neighborhood named after a family that owned a manor in the Bronx from the colonial period into the mid-19th century. Their name also appears in Morris Park, Morris Heights, and Morrisania in the Bronx; and Mount Morris in Manhattan. The salt marsh separating Stony Point from the mainland appears as a tidal creek, making it a true island on this map.

On the 1891 map of Port Morris, we see two yacht clubs near the tip.

At the end of East 132nd Street was Knickerbocker Yacht Club which included a bathhouse, and at the mouth of the unnamed tidal creek was a former ferry boat used as the clubhouse for Stuyvesant Yacht Club.

As the neighborhood industrialized, the boat clubs moved further upstream. Stuyvesant’s last clubhouse was on City Island at the time of its closing in 2015. Knickerbocker also moved east. Its last location was in Port Washington. It closed in 2009.

Going from west to east on East 132nd Street, one passes by Cypress, Willow, Walnut, and Locust streets. Remember that the South Bronx was once a suburb of the city, and like many American suburbs, streets named after trees are a must! There was also an Oak street here, but that was occupied by the railway route.

The last map of Stony Point that I’m sharing is the G. W. Bromley atlas plate from 1921 showing factories and warehouses here, and a ferry dock at the end of East 132nd Street. That ferry took travelers to the hospital on North Brother Island. On 134th Street, another ferry connected Port Morris to North Beach and College Point in Queens.

The most curious item here is the power plant that had a tunnel connecting to another power plant in Astoria. Likely this tunnel was not built for people or vehicles, but merely underground gas mains connecting two power plants in two boroughs. The tunnel was constructed in 1915, with a 21-foot diameter. Perhaps wide enough for two lanes of traffic, or more imaginatively as a pedestrian or bike tunnel. But at 4,662 feet in length and more than 200 feet below the surface, not practical for public use.

Looking south from the tip of East 132nd Street, one sees the Astoria power plant, Hell Gate Bridge, and Triboro Bridge behind it. If not for the foggy conditions, one would also see the skyline of Manhattan here. This pier was used for recreational purposes in the early 20th century and it has potential to be a park again, akin to the street-end waterfront pocket parks in Brooklyn and other parts of the city.

In 1883 there was a proposal to have Port Morris host an International Exposition, or world’s fair, with its own train station and docks for visitors. The plan envisioned a palatial exhibition hall surrounded by parkland. Morningside Heights in Manhattan was also proposed for that year’s exposition. Neither site in the city won enough support to become reality. Only in 1939 would New York again host a World’s Fair, at Flushing Meadows.

Instead of a world’s fair, Port Morris’ landscape was dominated by power plants that serviced the railroad terminating nearby, and the growing city. The architecture of these utilities featured stepped rooflines hearkening to the Dutch style of New Amsterdam, as seen in this 1897 photo of the power plant on East 132nd Street. As technology improved these brick power plants were replaced by simple metal and brick structures that lacked any sense of imagination and design.

The end of East 132nd Street today is fenced-off as its pier has deteriorated and collapsed into the water. The city can either rebuild the pier, or design a street end park akin to the one at Manhattan Avenue and Newtown creek in Brooklyn, Hunts Point Landing, or Hunts Point Riverside Park. The idea of restoring nature to Stony Point goes back to 2006, when the city mapped out the South Bronx Greenway, a series of waterfront green spaces connected by bike routes, and 2015, when the New York Restoration Project made renderings of its Haven Project to promote parkland in Mott Haven and Port Morris.

The NYRP proposal envisions a shoreline walkway along the actual tip that is Stony Point, as the shoreline businesses here do not have docks or use of the waters edge. At 134th Street, the abandoned ferry gantries would serve as a centerpiece of another waterfront park, with the power plant between 132nd and 134th remaining in place. Port Morris is a long way from becoming the next Greenpoint as it concerns waterfront transformation from industrial to residential, but there is already potential for parkland and natural restoration here on account of so much unused waterfront space.

For now, one can also see the tip of Stony Point from the Randalls Island Connector at Bronx Kill. Looking east, the Bronx and Stony Point are on the left, and Randalls Island is on the right. On the horizon is the Astoria power plant. A three borough view from this spot.

In the News:

Brooklyn Daily Eagle reports on plans to expand greenways in Brooklyn.

Patch reports on plans to expand greenways in Queens.

4 thoughts on “Stony Point, Bronx

  1. A November 3, 2020 / 10:18 pm

    Truly hidden waterway . Pasted this area many times with limited info on the history. Thx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Doug November 10, 2020 / 5:30 pm

    Interestingly, the tunnel is still there! It carries gas and possibly electricity between the two boroughs. An old NY Times article talks about a plant supervisor who would travel to the Bronx and ride a hand-pumped rail cart through the tunnel to finish his commute to Astoria. You can see pictures from the construction of the tunnel here:

    https://www.glaver.org/books/astoria-commemorative/index.shtml

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sergey Kadinsky November 13, 2020 / 4:34 am

      Wow! Tunnel is still there, imagine sneaking into that one. Perhaps the least known interborough tunnel in NYC.

      Liked by 1 person

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