Weir Creek, Bronx

The eastern coast of the Bronx is often compared to New England with its rocky shoreline, fishing boats, and fancy mansions with views. While much of the eastern seaboard south of New York is comprised of sandbars and barrier islands, the New England coast is rocky and dotted with islands and inlets. In the Edgewater Park neighborhood, an inlet framed by a park is all that remains of Weir Creek.

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The park at the head of the inlet conceals archeology going back to its time as a Native encampment.

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Sherman Creek, Manhattan

At the northern tip of Manhattan island, the scenery is reminiscent of the Hudson River Valley at Fort Tryon and Inwood Hill parks. Thick forests, steep hills, and views of the Palisades across the Hudson River. The east side of Inwood on the Harlem River receives fewer visitors, but has a rich natural and human history of its own.

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Sherman Creek and Swindler Cove offer a connection to the water’s edge, serving as examples of a waterfront restored to its natural appearance. Continue reading

Lispenard’s Meadow, Manhattan

Among the most helpful Twitter accounts that relates to New York City history is @Discovering_NYC, run by a local tour guide who shares old photos, maps, and illustrations of the city’s past. Over the weekend, it posted a map of Lispenard’s Meadow, the long-forgotten wetland in what is now the Tribeca neighborhood of lower Manhattan.

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At the turn of the 19th century, the meadow was on the northern periphery of New York City. Above is an 1800 illustration of the meadow by Alexander Anderson, looking towards the Hudson River. It contained three creeks within it, occluding one that drained from Collect Pond. That creek became the route of Canal Street.

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Priory Pond, Staten Island

As the last of the city’s boroughs to become urbanized, Staten Island still has plenty of sizable properties that belong to private institutions, such as the Roman Catholic Church. One example of this is Priory Pond in the Todt Hill section of the island.

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It is one of those places where one truly feels away from the city. overlooking the pond is a former Roman Catholic retreat center that gave the pond its name. Continue reading

Calvert Vaux Park, Brooklyn

In the course of its development, the flaw in Brooklyn is that it has large parks such as Prospect Park and Marine Park, and in contrast large neighborhoods without sizable parks such as the ironically-named Borough Park and Midwood.

In an apparent attempt to correct the borough’s shortage of parks, starting with Robert Moses in the 1930s, waterfront parks were built throughout Brooklyn. Problem is that they were built together with highways, ribbons of traffic separating them from neighborhoods.

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Once such example is Calvert Vaux Park, built on landfill at a point where Coney Island Creek flows into Gravesend Bay. Continue reading

Chyornaya River, Saint Petersburg

The imperial “northern capital” of Russia, Saint Petersburg is a city of many names such as Venice of the North for its many canals. On its northern side is a hidden waterway with a rich history whose name in English translates to “Black River.”

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The river has a place in history as a dueling site where Russia’s most famous poet was fatally wounded. That makes its name appropriate from a poetic viewpoint.

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Jerome Park Reservoir, Bronx

As a Parks analyst, I’ve researched the history of hundreds of parks throughout New York, but when is a “park” not a park? When it appears in Borough Park, Rego Park, Ozone Park, and Rockaway Park– all neighborhood names that ironically do not have have large parks within their borders. Then there’s Jerome Park, a horse racecourse from a century ago that had been submerged in favor a drinking water reservoir in the northwest section of the Bronx.

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As it is with the park-name neighborhoods, there are no large parks around the shore of Jerome Park Reservoir. The small green spaces that are there are separated from the water by a double fence.

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Dâmbovița River, Bucharest

In the years prior to the Second World War, my grandfather lived in Bucharest where he worked at his uncle’s workshop. In contrast to his humble hometown, the Romanian capital aspired to be the Paris of Eastern Europe with its wide boulevards, triumphal arch, majestic palaces, and an urban waterway lined with trees and benches.

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In the postcard above, found on a local history blog, we see the Dâmbovița River flowing straight through the city, with neatly planted trees on either bank. In the corner is a postage stamp featuring the country’s boy-king Mihai (Michael), who first sat on his throne at age five. The river has seen plenty of changes in its host city since the founding of the country.

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Prospect Park waterway, Brooklyn

There was once a time when Brooklyn was a city that rivaled Manhattan and attempted to have everything that the island borough has, such as its own art museum, botanical garden, and major league baseball team. It also had its own version of Central Park, designed by the same landscape architect duo. While Central Park has numerous unconnected waterways that were adapted from natural streams on site, Brooklyn’s 585-acre Prospect Park has only one waterway, carved entirely from the landscape.

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Initially fed by water from a well, the stream emerged from the ground through the manmade Fallkill Falls. The landscape of the brook was inspired by the Adirondack wilderness with a heavily forested rocky terrain that carried the stream through numerous waterfalls, rapids and lakes. Continue reading

Willow Brook on Todt Hill, Staten Island

Close to the summit of Todt Hill, the city’s highest natural point, Todt Hill Road runs through a protected strip of forest that was intended for a highway that was never built. Veering off the main road onto the two-block Sussex Avenue, the forest is on the left and single-family homes on the right.

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On the shoulder of the road appears a concrete block and an indentation in the ground with a swamp deeper in the woods. This is where Willow Brook has its headwaters. I didn’t see any frogs here, considering that the location is at Sussex Avenue and Croak Avenue.

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