The name more commonly used to refer to Kissena Creek is Ireland Mill Creek or Mill Creek, but I prefer to call it Kissena Creek because it flows out of Kissena Lake and the footprint of Kissena Corridor Park lies atop its streambed. Like dozens of other streams across the Five Boroughs, this creek had a gristmill that provided food to the early inhabitants of its vicinity.
The only photo of Ireland Mill that I’ve found so far is from George von Skal’s book Illustrated history of the borough of Queens, New York City, published in 1908. Its location is given as Ireland Mill Road at Lawrence Street. The present-day approximation of this address is near the corner of Booth Memorial Avenue and College Point Boulevard. A century since that book was printed, the scene would be unrecognizable to von Skal.
Every capital city has a stream flowing through it. Some have mighty rivers bisecting their centers and others have brooks that are barely visible but whose presence also had an impact on the development of cities. The Bulgarian capital of Sofia has two such streams, Vladaya River to the north of the city center, and the Perlovska to its south.
Its course within the city appears as a concrete channel in a constructed, tree-lined ravine. In spring, the snowmelt from the mountains results in more water in this channel, but for most of the year, it is all but invisible to passersby.
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.
The public works portfolio of Robert Moses is associated mostly with New York City and its suburbs. But on the map there are a couple of places on the state’s map where his name appears: a State Park in the Thousand Islands, and until 2019, a parkway along the Niagara River. His name was removed because the present generation no longer regards his heavy-handed tactics as positive. In the Niagara region, Moses designed a hydroelectric plant and reservoir that took land away from the Native Tuscarora Nation. The project resulted in the loss of land and the rerouting of two creeks within the reservation: Fish Creek and Gill Creek.
The Native people lost 550 acres to the reservoir, which does not have a name on most maps. Moses proposed it as the Tuscarora Reservoir in his plans, but the Natives likely were offended to have the land taken, flooded, and then named after them. Gill Creek was reduced to a ditch that flows around the perimeter of the reservoir on its way to the Niagara River. Naming the reservoir after Robert Moses also would have caused offense to the Natives. Some maps call it the Lewiston Reservoir after the town in which it is located.
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.