The radiating boulevards of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park have been a defining feature of the park since they were proposed in 1937 by Gilmore Clarke and Charles Rapuano as part of the great transformation of a former ash dump into a thousand-acre World’s Fair site and park. At the time, the flat and barren terrain gave Flushing Meadows the look of a blank slate, open to any ideas that would shape its future as a park.
From the Cornell University archives, a 1936 Fairchild Aerial survey shows Meadow Lake beginning to take its form. The core of the park to the north of the lake is the subject of this essay. Had the Versailles-inspired boulevards not been selected, what would have been the park’s appearance?
In the hilly terrain separating Douglaston and Little Neck neighborhoods, Gabler’s Creek runs through a ravine on its way to Little Neck Bay at Udalls Cove. The marsh at the stream’s mouth straddles the city line. Thanks to determined local residents, the stream runs undisturbed within the Udalls Cove Park Preserve.
Although the history of Udall’s Cove since 1969 appears to be a success story, it is not resolved. With 15 privately owned lots remaining within the ravine, development remains a threat to the cohesion of the preserve. Over the past half century, the city and state have acquired private parcels in a piecemeal manner.
In the 80-year history of Meadow Lake, there have been plans for the waterway that did not go beyond the planning phase. Having examined designs for a never-built mid-lake bridge, I will now look at the 1980s plan to install a racetrack around its shores.
From the 1983 map by Wilson Racing, the outline of the lake appears unchanged, but can one imagine the impact on the park if the Grand Prix proposal had happened?
The city’s largest freshwater lake offers enough details in its design and history to allow for multiple posts. Having previously focused on the Aquacade that stood at Meadow Lake, and the history of Jewel Avenue Bridge, I turn to its northwest corner, where Horse Brook had its confluence with Flushing Creek.
On the above image, the red triangle shows the location of my parents’ home, which will be built atop the filled Horse Brook stream bed in 1950.
In the time between this 1937 photo and the opening of the 1939 World’s Fair, the transformation of the wetlands along Flushing Creek into Flushing Meadows is one of the most unrecognizable landscape alterations in the city in the past century. Around Meadow Lake, it includes a few rejected proposals worth remembering.
When there are two large parks bordering each other, would it make sense to combine them under a single name? Not when each has a unique history and namesake worth keeping. In the Queens neighborhood of Bayside, the 46-acre Crocheron Park borders the 17-acre John Golden Park, but it is Crocheron that contains an internal waterway, Golden Pond.
I am not sure if Golden Pond has any relation to nearby John Golden Park, that is the name that it has been called for decades. This kettle pond is separated from the salt water of Little Neck Bay by a thin neck of land.
Since this blog was launched in December 2015, I’ve documented the city’s hidden waterways with as much detail as possible, but then after publishing the pieces, I stumble upon more old photos, maps, and postcards of the published streams.
The photo of note here is this August 1940 aerial survey of the first World’s Fair at Flushing Meadows, looking east. It is a Parks Department photo from the Municipal Archives collection. The corridor of open land between the street grids of downtown Flushing and Queensboro Hill is today’s Kissena Corridor Park, where Kissena Creek used to flow.
After my visit to the site of One Mile Pond, I felt it was a good opportunity to travel downstream and document the story of Baisley Pond, the largest lake in southern Queens.
Having visited this park after a morning snowfall, the terrain was muddy and there were few people to be seen. It is a post-glacial landscape akin to when mastodons roamed the earth. In 1858, the remains of this creature were unearthed by the pond by construction workers who were transforming the pond into a reservoir.
I was recently emailed by a researcher at the DEP about street flooding in Jamaica, Queens and its likely connection to a long-gone waterway known as One Mile Pond. It is a pond so obscure that it did not make the cut into the Hidden Waters book and I could not find too many sources online for its location and name.
The clue offered to me was that this pond was located upstream from Baisley Pond. A quick comparison of historical maps led me to St. Albans Memorial Park, an 11-acre expanse of green space built atop the former One Mile Pond.
In the cemetery belt that straddles the Brooklyn-Queens border there were a few glacial kettle ponds that were filled, one by one, to make way for more burials, and for the Jackie Robinson Parkway that sliced through the graveyards in 1927. One such waterway was Banzer’s Pond, whose disappearance has not been extensively documented.
The above photo comes from The East New York Project, an encyclopedic history source for this corner of Brooklyn. The pond here is possibly shown in 1916, when it hosted a popular amusement center run by its namesake family.
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.