The neighborhood of Kew Gardens is a mix of historic single-family residences, prewar co-ops, and recent infill condo boxes. It was built atop the glacial knob-and-kettle terrain that made for excellent golfing and contained a set of ponds dating to the last ice age. The largest of these was Crystal Lake.
As seen on this 1909 surveyor’s photo, the scene is pastoral but within a year this pond would be filled in favor of a train station that is still there today.
Along the glacial terminal moraine that stretches the length of Long Island are numerous kettle ponds that formed from chunks of ice that fell off the ice cap and melted in place. Some of these ponds are there today, such as Strack Pond and Potamogeton Pond, and other were buried such as Redder’s Pond and Jackson Pond.
Then there was Delta Lake, the triangular pond deep inside Cypress Hills Cemetery that was photographed by a city worker in 1927 ahead of its condemnation in favor of a parkway that would slice through the cemetery.
In a ravine sandwiched between a house and an apartment building in the Douglaston neighborhood of Queens, there is a pond that I was not aware of when I wrote Hidden Waters of New York City. I knew that Alley Pond Park has many ponds and lakes within it, but I never knew about Old Oak Pond.
I was informed about it by local resident Kevin Walsh of Forgotten-NY. He advised to wait until the winter season when there is less vegetation blocking views of the pond, a fewer ticks. But I could not wait.
In recent years there has been plenty of talk about the proliferation of self-storage warehouses across the city, large boxy structures that provide few jobs, take up land and skyline, but in their defense, pay their taxes, provide a service to the public, and use otherwise neglected industrial properties. In Queens, no self-storage facility is as iconic as the downtown Flushing U-Haul with its clocktower that faces Flushing Creek.
Flowing as a tidal estuary between the Flushing Bridge and Roosevelt Avenue Bridge, this section of Flushing Creek has seen plenty of change over the centuries perhaps with more on the way.
Its name appears on a popular tavern in Long Island City and despite its “sunny” name, it is nowhere to be seen on the surface. On a recent visit to Socrates Sculpture Park in Astoria, my daughter stumbled on a sizable puddle in the park that lingers long after the rain is gone.
This puddle is as ephemeral as the sculptures in the park, but it may carry the spirit of Sunswick, the waterway that flowed across this site on its way to the East River at Hallets Cove.
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
On the shoulder strip of parkland separating the westbound Grand Central Parkway and its service road in Hollis Hills, there is a pond tucked in the woods, once larger and with more water, reduced in size and all but forgotten.
Even its name is unclear as signs call it Potamogeton Pond but old newspaper articles call it Pea Pond.
The flooded meadow that once separated College Point from Flushing feeds the northernmost tributary of Flushing Creek, feeding into it just a few yards shy of where it widens into Flushing Bay. Mill Creek is a common name on the regional landscape, a reminder of the role that gristmills played in supplying food to colonial settlements that became today’s neighborhoods.
The view above from College Point Boulevard shows Mill Creek flowing into Flushing Creek at low tide. With so much of its course channeled beneath the streets, what is left of Mill Creek and its wetlands?
To the north of downtown Flushing is the Korean commercial corridor on Northern Boulevard, and north of that, the suburban blocks of Broadway-Flushing, where one may still find sizable unattached homes with grassy lawns. Century-old restrictive covenants preserve the neighborhood’s historic appearance in a borough where undecorated brick boxes and glass condo towers are becoming the norm.
In the center of this quiet neighborhood is Bowne Park, an 11.8-acre green space with a pond that was a private estate until 1925. For more than two centuries prior, it belonged to the Bowne family, which has roots in Flushing going back to John Bowne, who arrived in 1631. Continue reading
This past Friday, I was invited to speak about my book before the annual investors conference for the 22nd Annual Investors conference of the NYC Municipal Water Finance Authority. It took place at Queens Museum, which coincided with Maintenance Art, an exhibit on the ecology, history, and future of Fresh Kills by Mierle Laderman Ukeles.
The central piece of the exhibit was a model of Landing, an overlooks inside the dump-turned-park that will offer visitors a view of the city’s largest naturalistic landscape. What’s an architecture piece from Staten Island park doing at the Queens Museum? Continue reading