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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Photo of the Week

For the past forty years southern Brooklyn has been a magnet for Russian-speaking immigrants, nicknamed Little Odessa for its waterfront. One feature of this coastline is Sheepshead Bay, mistakenly nicknamed “the canal” by some newcomers but in reality, named after a fish whose image appeared on the first hotel in the neighborhood.

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Formerly a tidal strait that separated Coney Island from mainland Brooklyn, it was given a seawall shoreline in 1936, as seen in this photo from the NYPL Digital Collections. Continue reading

Photo of the Week

Historically, it was easy to tell when you were entering or leaving a city. Its borders were indicated by walls and gates for centuries and in more recent times by generous greenbelts that separated one city from another. Between Belmont Park and the Laurelton neighborhood in eastern Queens, the Cross Island Parkway straddles the city line, separating the city from the suburbs of Nassau County.

At a point just south of Linden Boulevard, the parkway has a tight hairpin interchange with Southern State Parkway, and a hidden stream flows beneath the twisting “suicide” curve.

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As often happened, when planners were charting paths for future highways, the easiest routes to map were along existing streams, where property acquisition was much easier to achieve. This week’s photo is from an aerial survey conducted on August 8, 1951. The photo comes from the New York State Archives.

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Photo of the Week

On November 7, 2014, the New York City Council passed legislation to reduce the speed limit on city streets to 25 miles per hour. Generally, drivers are adhering to the new law, but on a quarter-mile stretch of Jewel Avenue between Van Wyck Expressway and Grand Central Parkway, the road widens as it travels through parkland and drivers push the pedal as they travel atop the isthmus separating Willow Lake from Meadow Lake.

The Photo of the Week below comes from the New York Public Library collection, a series of aerial surveys taken between 1937 and 1939 that recorded the construction of the city’s largest freshwater lake.

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The shaping of Willow and Meadow lakes was a massive public works project that transformed more than a thousand acres of freshwater marshland into two lakes and creating a new transportation route across central Queens. The mansion at the bottom of the photo no longer stands but for four summers, it was the executive center of the city. Continue reading

Photo of the Week

As New York City developed, often, it was the parks that preserved many of the ponds from being buried in favor of apartments and offices. The relationship was mutual as the ponds were often selected as park sites and in turn the parks preserved the ponds. Sometimes where there were no ponds, the city would carve bodies of water inside parks to serve a variety of recreational functions such as fishing, model boating, ice skating, or simply to evoke a pastoral pre-urban scene.

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Prior to 1936, Brooklyn’s Sunset Park had a hilltop pond that was used for ice skating. The mystery here is whether Sunset Park Pond was natural or manmade. Let’s examine its history. Continue reading

Photo of the Week

Earlier this week, the New York Public Library released to the public nearly 187,000 free images. Searching in the database for materials on New York City’s hidden waterways, there is plenty to see and it will take time for me to select images that are worth sharing on my topic.

In the meantime, I’ve looked at other government agency collections for photos on the city’s streams and came across this gem from the Library of Congress. bx riv 1

It’s in the Boogie Down Borough, but where? Continue reading