Chyornaya River, Saint Petersburg

The imperial “northern capital” of Russia, Saint Petersburg is a city of many names such as Venice of the North for its many canals. On its northern side is a hidden waterway with a rich history whose name in English translates to “Black River.”

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The river has a place in history as a dueling site where Russia’s most famous poet was fatally wounded. That makes its name appropriate from a poetic viewpoint.

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Jerome Park Reservoir, Bronx

As a Parks analyst, I’ve researched the history of hundreds of parks throughout New York, but when is a “park” not a park? When it appears in Borough Park, Rego Park, Ozone Park, and Rockaway Park– all neighborhood names that ironically do not have have large parks within their borders. Then there’s Jerome Park, a horse racecourse from a century ago that had been submerged in favor a drinking water reservoir in the northwest section of the Bronx.

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As it is with the park-name neighborhoods, there are no large parks around the shore of Jerome Park Reservoir. The small green spaces that are there are separated from the water by a double fence.

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Mārupīte, Riga: Part Two

In Part One of my review of Riga’s Mārupīte creek, I documented the course from its sources to Maras Dikis Pond. In Part Two, we follow the creek out of the pond as it flows to its mouth at the Daugava River.

Parks Arkadijas Darzs

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In comparing Riga to New York, I consider Bastejkalns as its Central Park, and both cities have a Forest Park. If the neighborhoods of Pardaugava (left bank of Daugava) are Riga’s answer to NYC’s outer boroughs, then Parks Arkadijas Darsz (Arcadian Garden Park) must be Kissena Park. Both parks feature hilly terrain, Victorian landscaping, and a creek flowing through its grounds.

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Photos of the Week

It has been a few months since I’ve had the Photo of the Week feature relating to the waterways of the city. With a little over a week left before the show ends, I stopped to see the photography exhibit My Father’s Son at the Arsenal parks headquarters in Central Park.

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The exhibit showcases works by Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP and his late father Irwin Silver. The father’s black and white works show life in 1950s New York, while the son’s photos show the natural beauty of the city’s parks.

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Starlight Park, Bronx

Among the recent parks completed on the tidal section of the Bronx River is one reminiscent of a Madonna song, new and at the same time with a history that includes a stint as an amusement park and a failed World’s Fair. Starlight Park occupies a narrow space between the Bronx River and Sheridan Expressway, with the 174th Street Bridge crossing over the park.

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It is at once a calm space by the river that abuts two expressways in the densely populated center of the borough. Continue reading

Flushing Meadows Tour This Sunday

This Sunday October 16, I will be giving a tour of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park as part of the Open House New York presentation at the New York State Pavilion. My tour will begin at 1pm by the New York State Pavilion. So after you’re done with OHNY, you can learn more about the World’s Fairs that took place at this park with my tour, along with other details relating to the park’s history.

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For more details, contact Vickie Karp. 718-760-6437. If you cannot make it to my tour, there will be tours given by other park docents every hour from noon to 3pm with the last tour at 3:30pm.

Akerselva, Oslo

Norway is a kingdom of mountains and deeply carved fjords. At the head of Oslo Fjord is the county’s capital city. Unlike London or Paris, Oslo does not have a large river flowing through it. But it has the Akerselva, (Aker River) a creek whose fast flowing current was harnessed by industries, contributing to the city’s growth over the centuries.

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The above 1926 image of the Oslo Steel Works shows the Akerselva flowing past the factories on its way to the sea. since the 1980s, most of the stream’s course has been cleaned up and lined with parks, except for the last quarter mile where it is hidden in a tunnel, as it flows beneath Oslo’s Central Station. Continue reading

Westchester Creek, Bronx

On my travels north from home, I often use the Whitestone Bridge, whose roadway continues north as the Huthinson River Parkway. After emerging from the tangle of ramps it shares with Cross Bronx Expressway and Bruckner Expressway, it follows a stream for nearly a mile. But it’s not the parkway’s namesake. Not yet.

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It’s an obscure inlet that shares its name with the county to the city’s north. This is the story of Westchester Creek. Continue reading

Mid-Century GIS

As you may know, much of my research for Hidden Waters of New York City does not involve paddling, swimming, or walking away from my desk. It involves having a grasp of GIS: geographic information systems where one compares maps of the same location to determine what lies beneath the surface. Even when the internet is down and there is no time to take the bus to the New York Public Library, I have an excellent resource down the hall from my desk at the Parks Department headquarters.

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The topographical map above is undated. Taking a closer look at what’s there and what’s not there helps narrow down the approximate time of its publication and take stock of the changes on the city’s landscape since this map appeared. Continue reading

Peer Reviewed Book

When an author has a book reviewed by a peer, it is an experience that is at once exciting but also anxious. What would he say about my book? Is it deserving of his review? I am proud to have had my book read and reviewed today by The Bowery Boys, a blog founded by Greg Young and Tom Meyers. Since 2007, they’ve recorded podcasts of city history available to the public on their website and through iTunes, among other platforms.

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Click on the above 1915 postcard of Staten Island’s Silver Lake to read the full review and interview on Hidden Waters of New York City by The Bowery Boys. Last month, they recently released a book of their ownBowery Boys: Adventures in Old New York is available at all online book retailers including the venerable Strand Books.