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?
Having last visited Saw Mill Playground in the South Bronx in 2016, I returned to the site to take a closer look at its neighbor, Brook Park. Both of these parks commemorate in their names the long-buried Mill Brook.
The stream was entirely covered in the 19th century, with its most visible surface reminder being Brook Avenue. At 141st Street, the community garden known as Brook Park also remembers the stream although it does not lie directly atop the former stream bed.
In its course within the Bronx Zoo, the Bronx River contains plenty of Hidden Waters materials such as a long-forgotten boathouse, a tributary stream, and a lake that flows into the river. At the Bronx River Gate to the zoo on Boston Road there is a walkway along its shore with a view of a waterfall that is open to the public free of charge.
It is a scenic and quiet corner of the otherwise heavily visited zoo, its centerpiece being a 10-foot cascade that appears as a waterfall.
Deep inside the upscale Riverdale section of the Bronx is a private subdivision with two ponds that recall its former landowner. The ponds can be viewed by traveling downhill on West 246th Street to the west of Independence Avenue.
Here, the street curves and descends downhill towards the Hudson River. Delafield Way branches off to the left with the ponds located behind a guard booth at the entrance to the Delafield Estates development.
September 9, 2017 the Williamsbridge Oval in the Norwood section of the Bronx observed the 80th anniversary since it opened to the public as a park. Prior to that it was a 120 million gallon reservoir built into a bowl-shaped depression on a hilltop.
As seen on this 1937 Parks archives photo of the park under construction, the earthen embankment that ringed this manmade waterway was preserved in the park’s design.
When I am not exploring the city’s hidden waterways, I like to give attention to the its lesser known waterfront parks. One such example is Barretto Point Park, which opened in 2006 in the Hunts Point neighborhood in the Bronx.
Surrounded by manufacturing facilities, it is a welcome patch of green on a bend in the East River.
When the Bronx Zoo was developed at the turn of the 20th century, its design was considered innovative as it preserved much of its natural terrain, giving many of the animals room to roam at a time when many zoos kept their exhibits in tight cages. The preservation of the landscape enabled the Bronx River to flow freely through the zoo, and retained some of the ponds and brooks within the zoo for the enjoyment of the animals.
Among these waterways are the Northern Ponds and the brook that sends the water downstream from these ponds into the Bronx River.
On the Bronx shore of the Harlem River to the south of Yankee Stadium is the 10-acre Mill Pond Park, which opened in 2009 on the site of the Bronx Terminal Market. The name of this park suggests a forgotten waterway on the site.
Where was the pond that gave this recent park its name?
My fascination with all things GIS often brings me to take a closer look at the old maps hanging throughout NYC Parks facilities. They have so much to show for things that are no longer here, things that never got built, and the altered shorelines of the city’s waterways.
Long before the tractors and construction cranes arrived, most of the city’s streets were mapped out in a grid pattern that demonstrated little respect for the landscape and the waterways. Continue reading
At the northeast tip of the Bronx is an ear-shaped peninsula framed in the back by The Lagoon, a body of water separating the peninsula from the park’s larger section.
It is a quiet and shallow waterway on the city’s periphery, as natural as it gets in a densely urbanized borough. Its shape is manmade as it once separated islands from the mainland prior to becoming part of the largest land reclamation project in the Bronx.