Westchester Creek is a head-scratcher for travelers as it is named after the county north of The Bronx, but doesn’t flow anywhere near it and never did. Prior to 1895, eastern Bronx was part of Westchester County and the neighborhood near this stream is named Westchester Square. This explains the stream’s name.
The present Westchester Creek is a tidal inlet of the East River with its head at East Tremont Avenue. Prior to the 1950s, the creek flowed further inland where the Bronx Psychiatric Center and the Hutchinson Metro Center stand today. When there’s enough rainfall, a vernal pond next to this office complex hints at the phantom stream that flowed here.
On the northbound drive taking Throgs Neck Bridge, the anchorage tower rests at the tip of the bridge’s namesake, a fortress-turned-college campus. The road then runs above a cove in the Long Island Sound before landing on the Bronx mainland. Hammond Cove separates Throg’s Neck from Locust Point at the southeastern extreme of this borough.
This tidal inlet contains a private beach and two marinas in the most suburban part of the Bronx, where single-family houses and quiet are the most defining features.
The largest park in the South Bronx has an Olmstedian terrain of hills, outcroppings, fields and woods. What is missing at St. Mary’s Park is a water feature. Considering the park’s age (1888) and size (35 acres), the question is raised whether it had a pond in the past.
The 1934 Praeger aerial survey of the park from the Municipal Archives, shows a ridge running down its midpoint and gentle slopes on either side. The park was about to be transformed by Robert Moses who added playgrounds and sports fields to it. But then there is the flat area on its western side, at St. Ann’s Avenue and E. 147th Street.
From its source at Kensico Reservoir south to the New York Botanical Garden, the Bronx River flows nearly in a straight line direction alongside the parkway that shares its name. But there is one section of the river where it takes a brief turn east before returning to its linear course.
Here the river runs under six overpasses carrying Bronx River Parkway, Bronx Boulevard, and Gun Hill Road. There has been a bridge here since colonial times, lending its name to the Williamsbridge neighborhood.
As the island of Manhattan is nearly entirely ringed by a series of connected parks, the other four boroughs are also experiencing the opening of their shorelines to the public. Dozens of post-millennial parks lines the water’s edge providing resiliency against storm surges, open space for the public, and restored habitats.
On the Bronx side of the Harlem River sandwiched between the stream, a railway, and a highway is Bridge Park, the newest link in what will be a series of parks running from Kingsbridge to Mott Haven on a formerly industrial shoreline. At this park, one gets dramatic views from underneath three arch bridges linking the Bronx to upper Manhattan.
The northeastern tip of the Bronx is where one finds the city’s biggest city-operated park. With 2,772 acres Pelham Bay Park is three times the size of Central Park. The most visited portion of the park is Orchard Beach, the crescent-shaped beach framed by the hilly nature preserves of Hunter and Twin islands.
Having previously written about the lagoon that separates the beach from the rest of the park, there’s also Turtle Cove, a smaller nature preserve inside the park. It is framed by three of the park’s internal roads and a forest.
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.
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
Near the northern border of Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx is a natural lake that shares its name with the cemetery and the surrounding neighborhood. It is a pleasant feature in the park-like graveyard that contains the remains and monuments for some of New York’s most famous people.
This water feature and the cemetery itself are contemporaries of Brooklyn’s Green-Wood and Evergreens cemeteries, which also have the appearances of a “burial park.” And like any distinguished park, they preserved their ponds while the surrounding landscape filled up with bodies and monuments.
Among the streams feeding into the East River that flow through the Bronx, Pugsley Creek is obscure, with little information available on its history. All that remains of it today is an inlet of the East River that used to penetrate much further inland.
The present head of this stream is deep inside Pugsley Creek Park, a 50-acre sanctuary of plants and wildlife separating the Soundview and Castle Hill neighborhoods. Continue reading
The oldest active bridge in New York City isn’t Brooklyn Bridge. It is the Roman-inspired High Bridge that connects western Bronx to the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan. Further north there was a much older bridge that connected Manhattan to the mainland. King’s Bridge crossed over Spuyten Duyvil Creek that passed by the northern tip of Manhattan.
In the above 1906 photo of King’s Bridge, the crossing appears virtually unchanged from its appearance in 1766 when it opened as part of Albany Post Road. The creek was buried and rerouted in 1914, but are there any traces remaining of the city’s first bridge?