Among the waterways of New York City that has experienced dramatic change in the past century is Flushing Bay, an arm of the East River that borders on College Point and LaGuardia Airport, where Flushing Creek widens into this bay. On this aerial survey photo from 1947, found at the NYS Archives, I identified some of the locations that I’ve previously documented on this blog and a few other interesting items.
The landscape here is urban but not yet as dense as it would become with the post-1965 influx of immigrants and revival of the city in the last quarter of the 20th century. The airport hasn’t yet reached its present size, as many people still used railroads and ships to reach distant places. Finally, the jail at Rikers Island also hasn’t reached its present size and it was only accessible by boat this this time.
When I am not writing about waterways, I make videos on the history of parks. Recently I published one on the State Parks of Long Island, the region of New York that sticks out into the ocean.
There are 29 state parks in total in the region of Long Island (if you include Brooklyn and Queens, it would be 33, but that’s for another video). Concerning waterways, these parks include former reservoirs, creeks, inlets, barrier islands, and the open water of the ocean. Former estates, botanical gardens, military installations, hunting clubs, and country clubs, are included in this collection of state parks. This videos is a good way to welcome the summer season.
In northern Hungary where cities are hosting thousands of refugees from neighboring Ukraine, there is the picturesque city of Miskolc. Flowing through its historic center is the Szinva river, which powered mills into the mid-19th century, occasionally caused deadly flooding, and now serves the purpose of a linear park that connects the city’s neighborhoods and hints to its rich history.
This scene is looking downstream from Szinva Terrace Park towards a tunnel at Kazinczy Ferenc Street. The streetscape here represents the spectrum of the last century that includes from the Habsburg period, the interwar kingdom, and communism with the modernist apartment tower overshadowing the stream. This terraced park was completed in 2005, representing the democratic period that began in 1989, when Hungary and its neighbors abolished one-party rule.
Running from west to east, Fordham Road runs through busy shopping districts, the university that shares its name, and at Bronx Park the road continues east as Pelham Parkway. At its western tip Fordham Road continues into Manhattan with University Heights Bridge. Before the bridge was built, there was Fordham Landing, a dock on the Harlem River whose name will reappear on the map as the shoreline undergoes a transformation.
The site of Fordham Landing has remnants of the dock where ferries landed before the bridge opened in 1908. The cove here is polluted with runoff and trash. As the opposite shore in Manhattan experiences restoration, eventually the Bronx side of the Harlem River will also have a cleaner future.
When I am not writing about hidden urban waters in the city of New York, I look north at other cities in this state of the same name. Having written about Albany and Buffalo, the city of Syracuse also grew with the construction of Erie Canal. This vital waterway was widened and routed north of the city center a century ago, but the city has an older waterway that connects to its Native people: Onondaga Creek.
Nearly the entire urban section of Onondaga Creek is accessible to the public by a Creekwalk path that follows the stream, such as the above photo where it flows under the Washington Street Garage.
The spot where Emmons Avenue becomes the eastbound ramp to the Belt Parkway, where Sheepshead Bay ends and Plumb Beach begins has one of New York’s newest playgrounds, named after a popular local politician. It marks a scenic start to the Jamaica Bay Greenway, a bike route that runs along the northern side of this lagoon.
From the playground’s highest point looking south, we see Sheepshead Bay widening onto the Rockaway Inlet. The tip of Kingsborough Community College is across the bay and in the background is Breezy Point. Behind it is the open water of the Atlantic Ocean.
The second largest city in the State of New York is also home to the only New York football team that has its stadium within the state. Buffalo is referenced in art and literature as the western terminus of the Erie Canal that made New York an economic powerhouse in the 19th century. At the historic end of the canal is a reconstructed inlet of Buffalo Creek that serves as a commercial and entertainment district that celebrates the impact of the canal on the city.
Looking down at Canalside from the ramp of the Buffalo Skyway, we see a dry trench spanned by three replica bowstring bridges and a children’s museum at this T-shaped canal restoration. Behind the highway viaduct this canal flows into Buffalo River which enters Lake Erie. A mile to the north of this confluence, the lake funnels into Niagara River. In the second half of the last century, the decline of industry gave this area a neglected appearance akin to Gowanus in Brooklyn pre-gentrification. In the center of the declining cityscape was the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium, a sports arena that was demolished in 2009 in favor this historical-theme district. With the removal of the arena, there is talk of removing the highway to give the area a more pedestrian-friendly look.
The largest park on the east side of the East River is Astoria Park, located between the Triboro (RFK) and Hell Gate bridges. It has the largest outdoor pool in the city but shortly after the park was created, there was a highly unrealistic plan to give this park a bathing beach. Under the noise of the two bridges, the public can swim, use the running tack, tennis courts, playground, and lawn, among other amenities.
Until recently, the park’s relationship to the East River was overshadowed by the massive pool and Shore Road that runs along the water’s edge. With the pedestrianization of this road, the public has easier access to the shoreline where the turbulent current of Hell Gate can be observed.
Montayne’s Rivulet, the only natural water course within Central Park that was preserved and repurposed, is fed by The Pool. This artificial lake is a flooded ravine located in the northwest corner of the park near W. 101st Street. It has a naturalistic appearance that has its most colorful look in autumn.
Around this lake there are brooks flowing into it that emerge from pipes concealed under rocks to appear as springs. Prior to the development of Central Park, the rivulet has its sources across Central Park West, in the Upper West Side neighborhood.
At the eastern end of Jamaica Bay, where the Rockaway Peninsula widens into the mainland of Long Island is one of New York’s smallest and least developed State Parks. At 12 acres of wetland, shoreline and lawns, Bayswater Point State Park seems like an unexpected member of a family that includes Niagara Falls, Bear Mountain, and Montauk Point.
The park is one of more than a dozen along Jamaica Bay that are managed by the city, state, Nassau County, and the National Parks Service. This park was previously a private estate that was given to the public in the will of its last owner and then purchased by the state.