If every school, street, park, and waterway had a sign explaining its namesake, the public would have a better understanding of their local history and how these points of the map became a feature of their lives. Earlier this month, a historical sign was installed at Hartmann’s Pond in Amityville, a village on Long Island near the Nassau-Suffolk county line.
The pond is the centerpiece of the largest park in the village, a green space that was used for industry more than a century ago. The rest of Amityville Creek is much less visible as it flows between backyards and underneath apartment buildings and parking lots.
Where it Flows
The topographical map by the U.S. Geological Survey shows a gently sloping coastal plan perforated by creeks flowing into the Great South Bay. Amityville Creek is highlighted, shown here with its source at Bayview Avenue near Albany Avenue. Hartmann’s Pond appears within Pinehurst Park, which was later renamed Peterkin after a philanthropic resident of Amityville. It then flows into Avon Lake, Ireland Pond, and then widening into a tidal inlet of the bay.
An aerial illustration from 1915 shows Amityville Creek serving as the eastern side of the village, with Hartmann’s Pond located next to the Long Island Railroad tracks. The commercial hub here is Broadway that is today’s State Route 110 that runs from Amityville to Huntington.
North of Sunrise Highway the creek is hidden behind backyards in thick vegetation. On the south side of the highway it emerges as a ditch next to an auto body shop. With little open space along its banks, the creek receives little water from the surrounding surface. Portions of the creek flow through private land, leaving it vulnerable to development that could force it into pipes.
One such example is Wellington Park, a set of townhouses with a parking lot built atop Amityville Creek. The buildings are set around a private lawn with a gazebo. The creek could have served as the centerpiece of this development, whose selling point is that it overlooks Peterkin Park and Hartmann’s Pond.
Looking upstream from Hartmann’s Pond, one can see how the parking lot of Wellington Park occupies the streambed. Driving a car is a necessity on Long Island, so it is highly unlikely that the covered sections of Amityville Creek would be daylighted. Peterkin Park envelops the pond, named after a local philanthropist who donated for the park’s upkeep.
Oak Street marks the southern side of Peterkin Park. Across from the park, the creek serves as a boundary between private homes. Continuing downstream, not all property owners respect the creek’s presence, seeing it as a flood hazard.
At Union Avenue, the Brookside Villas condo development offers irony with its name and buildings situated atop the buried creek. Across this street the creek reemerges to the surface in a forest. A historic marker here notes that Union Avenue was on the route of the Babylon Railroad, a trolley line that ran from 1871 to 1920. It closed for failing to turn a profit. Combining railroads and streetcars, there was more public transportation on Long Island a century ago than today.
Sometimes the width of a street reveals the stream buried beneath, as in Manhattan’s Canal Street. In Amityville this example is see at Avon Place and Lake Drive, where the creek flows under the street and then emerges as Avon Pond. This body of water is a former millpond repurposed as a scenic feature.
Not all developments along the creek are bad. At 200 Merrick Road, the creek flows in a channel between the apartments and their parking lot. A footbridge connects the two items. The winding parallel to Sunrise Highway, this road is also known as State Route 27A, running from Queens to Great River. Across this street, Amityville Creek is at sea level as an inlet of the Great South Bay.
Nautical Park at the head of the tidal section has anchors strewn across its lawn and views of boats parked next to homes along the creek.
The inlet section of the creek has two private isles used for boat storage. One of them has a pair of homes on it with an addresses on Riverside Avenue on the left side of the creek. On the right side of the creek, there is a hosue on Ocean Avenue whose address was changed and it was blurred out on Google Street View. That’s the home where a family’s was murdered in 1977 that inspired a horror movie. Amityville residents are desperate to distance their town’s reputation from this crime.
At the moth of the creek is a public dock where it widens into the Great South Bay. Amityville is one of more than a dozen small streams that flow into the bay, each with a unique name that honors its surrounding community, an early settler, or the Natives who were here first. From its source to its mouth, the creek is covered in some sections, and preserved within parkland. Where it is visible, it offers hints of local history, as in the example of Hartmann’s Pond.
In the News:
The Guardian reports on edible plants being grown along the Bronx River.
The Sentinel-Record reports on a student’s plan to daylight Hot Springs Creek in Arkansas.
KTVU reports on dam removals on the Klamath River in northern California.
Nice done ! Any freshwater fish species in this creek ?
Wish yu’d correct the typos here: plan for plain, moth for mouth, etc.