In the Brooklyn neighborhood of Sheepshead Bay, one grid-defiant road runs askew to the grid, connecting Gravesend Neck Road to the bay. Its route follows an obscure stream that used to cause flooding in the area.
As seen in this 1933 photo from the NYPL Digital Collections, a heavy downpour brought Squan Creek back to the surface. Above is the intersection of East 11th Street and Avenue Y where the creek’s course flowed until the early 20th century as urbanization covered the stream.
In my search for new post-millennial waterfront parks in New York, Newtown Barge Park offers a dramatic example of a landscape transformed. It lies on a formerly industrial site where the Newtown Creek flows into the East River, the watery tripoint where the borders of Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens meet.
At the park’s main entrance, we see the stark contrast between a parking lot and the recently planted lawn that faces Manhattan’s Waterside Plaza.
On the western landing of the Mill Basin Bridge on Belt Parkway, one may notice a sizable wetland bound by the highway, Mill Basin, and Flatbush Avenue. It is home to four rare bird species: the Saltmarsh, Song, Swamp, and Savannah sparrows, resulting in its name, the Four Sparrow Marsh.
With Kings Plaza shopping center to its north and the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge to its south, Four Sparrow Marsh has been a contented ground between advocates of commerce and natural preservation.
When one finds a lake atop a mountain, it can either be a crater lake or in an urban setting, a reservoir designed to have water flow down the slopes to the people. Between 1858 and 1959 the Ridgewood Reservoir received water from smaller reservoirs on Long Island’s south shore, which was then distributed across the city of Brooklyn. Following Brooklyn’s annexation by New York City, the reservoir was demoted to backup storage until its abandonment in 1990.
From that point, nature took over and the reservoir eventually received the status of a freshwater wetland, a rarity within New York City. Left to its own devices, the stagnant pool of water turned into a wetland and habitat for 137 birds, as recorded by the National Audubon Society. Around its perimeter plants colonized the site, hiding the brickwork beneath thick vegetation. In 1990, the city’s Department of Environmental Protection decommissioned the reservoir and it was assigned to Parks in 2004.
When I thought that I knew all that there is to know about a particular waterway, I stumble upon drawings of unrealized visions for such streams. On Brooklyn’s Sheepshead Bay one can walk on the longest pedestrian-only bridge across a waterway that is inside a borough, the Ocean Avenue Footbridge. On the mainland side of the bridge, Ocean Avenue is very wide as one of Brooklyn’s major north-south routes, running for 5.5 miles north to Prospect Park.
In reality the bridge is a block to the west of Ocean Avenue. But the real question here is why is the three-block Manhattan Beach segment of Ocean Avenue so wide if it does not connect to any other major roads?
On the industrial waterfront of Brooklyn’s Industry city is a new park with two obscure entrances that offers sweeping views of New York Harbor. Bush Terminal Park opened in 2014 on a reclaimed stretch of shoreline that previously operated as a seaport.
The park offers a naturalistic scene on a harbor ringed by piers and warehouses in a corner of Brooklyn that is lacking in sizable parks.
The largest cemetery in Brooklyn lies atop a knob-and-kettle terrain shaped by the last ice age, with dramatic views of New York Harbor and Manhattan. Like its contemporary Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx and the Evergreens cemetery on the Queens border, Green-Wood Cemetery has a landscape that respects topography with winding roads and four natural ponds that predate the cemetery.
The largest of the cemetery’s ponds is Sylvan Water, as seen here in a 2007 Forgotten-NY tour. Each of the lakes is ringed by the resting places of some of the city’s most famous individuals, an calm view for their admirers, and those who visit to observe birds, architecture, and nature.
In an unexpected start for 2018, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced yesterday a proposal to create a 407-acre State Park in Brooklyn. My first reaction was in line with the city’s independent spirit: “Do we really need more State Parks, state troopers and state tourism road signs within the city’s borders?” My second reaction was, “Here we go again, the Governor and the Mayor’s rivalry is now a literal turf war with a State Park inside the city.” My third and final reaction was, “Where in Brooklyn is there a 407-acre expanse of undeveloped land that can become a park?”
Reading the governor’s 2018 State of the State address, the park would encompass the Fountain Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue landfills in southeastern Brooklyn. In the photo above these two mounds are separated by Hendrix Creek.
On my previous visit to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, I reported on its historic Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden. From this exotic-looking lake, a constructed brook flows through the garden through the Bluebell Wood, Rock Garden, Plant Family Collection, and the Water Garden. At its terminus, the stream first enters a forebay pond before pooling in the Water Garden pond.
Completed in 2016, the Water Garden pond provides an environmentally sustainable solution for managing the garden’s flow of water. It was designed by prolific landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh, whose works can be found across the country, incorporating waterways into postmodern park landscapes. Above is a photo of Tupelo Point which juts into the pond.
In today’s polarized society, people often put themselves into ideological silos and see little in common with members of other political persuasions, interests, and beliefs. Although the Hamodia newspaper is designed for a certain sector of Orthodox Jews, I can argue that its material can educate anyone who picks it up. Can you imagine an Irish-American historian from Queens reading a Hamodia article?
An example of the cross-over appeal here is Yitzchok Shteierman’s Pioneers of Boro Park column, which documents the neighborhood’s history. This is the type of work that Kevin Walsh does on Forgotten-NY.
Where do the literary paths of Shteierman, Walsh, and I intersect? At Webster’s Pond, a long-buried waterway deep in the heart of Borough Park, Brooklyn.