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.
At the city’s extreme northeast is Pelham Bay Park, a vast greensward that is three times the size of Central Park. One could not feel more distant from the city when visiting the park’s destinations: Orchard Beach, Bartow-Pell Mansion, Split Rock Golf Course, and the trails of Hunter Island and Twin Islands. On the inland side of the park is the Hutchinson River, known to most New Yorkers as the namesake of the parkway that follows its course.
The river has a history relating to the conflict among Puritan colonists in New England that led to the English annexation of New Netherlands.
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
Each of New York’s flagship Olmsted-designed parks has its own pond or lake, intended for ice skating, fishing, and boating. Often these waterways predate the parks, with long natural and human histories relating to the development of neighborhoods around the parks. One such example is Van Cortlandt Lake in the Bronx.
In the midst of the fall season, it is an ideal place to capture the sight of the foliage as it changes colors with the cooling temperatures.
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.
One such waterway is Cope Lake, located near the northern border of the zoo by Fordham Road. Continue reading
In the course of choosing which waterways to profile in my book, the city’s golf courses hold many of them, including natural streams, inlets of the sea and artificial ponds used as water traps. Generally, I avoided those designed as part of a course with no natural history predating the links.
And then there’s Trump Links at Ferry Point Park in the Bronx, an upscale course that transformed a former trash landfill into a landscape of rolling hills reminiscent of Trump’s two courses in Scotland. Continue reading
Prior to urbanization, Tibbetts Brook flowed south from what is now Van Cortlandt Park to Spuyten Duyvil Creek, a course marked on maps by Tibbett Avenue. In the proposal to daylight the buried section of this stream, the new course is envisioned a few blocks to the east.
The proposed stream path runs on the route of a railway that rolled through northwestern Bronx until 1980. Since then, portions of it have become a naturally occurring wetland. With a little cleaning up and a path following it, one can imagine abandoned spaces such as the underpass above having a creek followed by a walking path.
I recently found a postcard that shows a boathouse on the Bronx River but had no idea where this boathouse stood. By its appearance, it is a counterpart to the boathouses of Central Park and Prospect Park but while those parks are also located at the centers of their respective boroughs, most of Bronx Park is not an open park. For more than a century, its land was set aside for the Bronx Zoo and the New York Botanical Garden.
So if this boathouse was within the park, what happened to it and what’s there today? Continue reading