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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
On the rapidly gentrifying East River shoreline of Brooklyn, the border between the neighborhoods of Greenpoint and Williamsburg begins at Bushwick Inlet. Formerly used as an oil storage dock, this indentation in the shoreline is in the process of being transformed into Brooklyn’s newest park. The inlet is a remnant of Bushwick Creek, which reached further inland prior to urbanization.
After a struggle to acquire properties along its shores, the entirety of Bushwick Inlet is now assigned to the Parks Department as it prepares to transform the vacant space into a park. Continue reading
Having visited Indian Pond, the entirely private waterway in the Bronx, I return to Staten Island, the borough with the most ponds. The borough has another superlative to share: the last freshwater pond in the city that has a beach for swimming.
In the image above, the pond is seen from the eastbound service road of the Staten Island Expressway. Continue reading
In the leafy corner of northwestern Bronx is the 140-acre residential enclave of Fieldston. seemingly a village inside the city, its private streets are open to traffic, but no parking is allowed. Its homes resemble a Thomas Kinkade painting, preserved by restrictive covenants and the city’s landmarks law. It also has its private parks, including one with a pond inside it.
This glacial pond is tucked inside a privately-owned park maintained by fees from local residents. Continue reading
In Part One of my review of Riga’s Mārupīte creek, I documented the course from its sources to Maras Dikis Pond. In Part Two, we follow the creek out of the pond as it flows to its mouth at the Daugava River.
Parks Arkadijas Darzs
In comparing Riga to New York, I consider Bastejkalns as its Central Park, and both cities have a Forest Park. If the neighborhoods of Pardaugava (left bank of Daugava) are Riga’s answer to NYC’s outer boroughs, then Parks Arkadijas Darsz (Arcadian Garden Park) must be Kissena Park. Both parks feature hilly terrain, Victorian landscaping, and a creek flowing through its grounds.
The waterway that started my fascination with hidden urban streams is the 2.5-mile Mārupīte on the eastern side of Riga, my birthplace city. This was the stream that I’ve known since birth.
The scene above is with my mother at Arcadian Park (Arkādijas Parks) where the Mārupīte flows through an Olmstedian landscape a couple of blocks from my grandparents’ home.