Dongcheon, Busan

The leading example of a restored urban waterway is the Cheonggyecheon in Seoul, a multi-million dollar linear park that has inspired other cities worldwide to follow this example. Among other Korean cities, the southern city of Busan has its own examples of  urban streams restored and others that are covered by streets and buildings.

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Like New York, Busan is a true metropolis covering smaller former municipalities that it absorbed over the decades. The stream flowing through the city center is the Dongcheon, which runs partially underground with the rest flowing neglected beneath highways. But there are a small signs of a stream revival underway hinting at a greener future.

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Hidden Waters of NYBG, Bronx

The green lung at the center of the city’s northern borough is Bronx Park, designed to function as the Bronx’s counterpart to Central Park and Prospect Park. But shortly after its acquisition in 1888, most of this park has been designated for the Bronx Zoo and the New York Botanical Garden. The Bronx River flows through these institutions, and within their grounds is fed by tributaries that are incorporated into the animal and plant exhibits.

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One such example is the Native Plant Garden at NYBG, which in 2013 received a postmodern-style pond. The unnamed brook here is the most visible hidden waterway at NYBG, and the question I’m researching is whether it is fed by springs, wells, or the city water supply. Continue reading

Conselyea’s Pond, Queens

The visual centerpiece and namesake of Brookville Park in the Rosedale neighborhood of Queens is the stream flowing through the park. It widens into two ponds before flowing out into the marshes of Idlewild. The larger one is Conselyea’s Pond, which has a long history going back to the American Revolution.

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The pond’s namesake is the Conselyea family, descendants of Dutch settlers who owned a gristmill at this pond in the 19th century. The ponds of Brookville Park are part of the much longer Simonson Creek that originates in Elmont, follows the eastern border of Queens, and discharges into Jamaica Bay.

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Birsig, Basel

Near the meeting of the French, Swiss, and German borders is the city of Basel, straddling the Rhine River. Regarded as one of the best cities in which to live, it has a long history as a venue for international gatherings, and a healthy economy as a center for banking and pharmaceuticals. Growing around a Celtic settlement that became a Roman fort, and then as a semi-independent bishopric, Basel expanded its walls and built markets atop the Rhine’s urban tributary, the Birsig River.

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The river flows in a park-lined channel through the city, descending into darkness for its final miles beneath the city’s historic center. Above is the tunnel portal at Birsigstrasse, high enough for a small vehicle to enter when the water is low. Continue reading

Decline in Design on Fresh Kills Bridge

One of the major north-south routes on Staten Island is Richmond Avenue, which crosses Fresh Kills at the point where the stream leaves LaTourette Park and enters the former landfill that is Freshkills Park. The bridge here has a long history, going through four phases in design.

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The stretch of Richmond Avenue at Fresh Kills resembles a highway and the bridge is easy to miss as one speeds through the salt marsh. The current bridge was built in the 1980s, a concrete and steel fixed crossing. Some maps have the stream here as Richmond Creek, the name used for Fresh Kills further upstream where it descends from the hills of the Staten Island Greenbelt. Continue reading

Thurston Creek, Queens

As its name suggests, Springfield Boulevard in southern Queens used to run past a field with a spring from which a stream originated. That stream is Thurston Creek, which its had its source near Springfield Boulevard and 121st Avenue, across from Montefiore Cemetery in the neighborhood of Springfield Gardens. It flowed south along Springfield Boulevard for nearly three miles, emptying into Jamaica Bay.

The creek emerges to the surface in Springfield Park, a 24-acre green space where the creek flows through a brick channel, widening into Cornell’s Pond before continuing south into the Idlewild marshes.

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Valley Stream, NY

As the hidden brook titled Valley Stream flows through the suburban New York village of Valley Stream, I could not title this essay as “Valley Stream, Valley Stream.” This brook also runs through a state park that shares its name, behind backyards, beneath parking lots, through two former millponds before emptying into Jamaica Bay.

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The stream flows for four miles from its source in Franklin Square to its confluence with Hook Creek. Along the course are a handful of picturesque parks, such as Village Green Park, seen above.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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