Having documented nearly all of New York City’s named hidden waterways, I’m taking this opportunity to tell the story of land forms that jut out into the water whose locations impacted the development of neighborhoods and the city. Tips such as Hunters Point, Breezy Point, Throgs Neck, and Clason Point appear as neighborhood names, but then there are forgotten ones such as Stony Point, the southernmost place in the Bronx, the city’s mainland borough.
As the tip of Stony Point is on private property ringed by fences and watched by security cameras, the nearest public access to it is the dead-end of East 132nd Street, the southernmost street in the Bronx. At this location, one is looking east towards Rikers Island and Lawrence Point, the northern tip of Astoria, Queens.
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.
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.
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 →
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 →