The longest stream flowing on the North Shore of Staten Island is Bodine Creek, which flows through an Olmstedian park, then descended beneath the streets, and briefly sees daylight again before meeting the water of the ocean.
Within Clove Lakes Park, the stream is also known as Clove Brook, descending down five manmade cascades, each of which has a unique design. The largest of these barriers is Martling Dam which has steps on it that were used for public bathing in the past.
In contrast to the uninterrupted stretches of parkland on the South Shore of Staten Island, the more urbanized North Shore is still very much a working waterfront with little available space for parkland on the water’s edge. With the current city administration working to address inequality in the distribution of parks, the Nov. 26 ribbon cutting at Richmond Terrace Park opened up a new public green space on the Kill Van Kull.
The park offers views of the waterfront that were previously blocked off to local residents. From this park, one can look north towards Newark Bay, northwest at Shooters Island, and see the hulking remnants of ships rusting away at this historically industrial stretch of Kill Van Kull.
The southernmost point in New York City and state is the neighborhood of Tottenville on Staten Island. At the tip is the 286-acre Conference House Park, which needs no introduction. A couple of blocks north of it is another park that lines the shore of Arthur Kill, a wild landscape of a seashell-covered beach, ravine, and thick tree cover.
At only nine acres, Tottenville Shore Park is a nature preserve that also serves as a miniature bluebelt that collects runoff from nearby streets and channels it into the ocean, reducing the burden on the sewer system.
One of the major north-south routes on Staten Island is Richmond Avenue, which crosses Fresh Kills at the point where the stream leaves LaTourette Park and enters the former landfill that is Freshkills Park. The bridge here has a long history, going through four phases in design.
The stretch of Richmond Avenue at Fresh Kills resembles a highway and the bridge is easy to miss as one speeds through the salt marsh. The current bridge was built in the 1980s, a concrete and steel fixed crossing. Some maps have the stream here as Richmond Creek, the name used for Fresh Kills further upstream where it descends from the hills of the Staten Island Greenbelt. Continue reading
Bordering on the campus of the College of Staten Island is a 215-acre woodland with a lake that is part of the larger set of connected parks, the Staten Island Greenbelt. Willowbrook Lake shares its name with the surrounding park and has a rustic log cabin-style boathouse that is used as the park’s office.
The lake appears natural but was carved out of the landscape after the city acquired Willowbrook Park. It is the most visible section of Willow Brook, a hidden waterway that flows across central Staten Island.
In the Prince’s Bay section of Staten Island is a parcel preserved amid the tract houses that interrupts the local street grid. It is one of 15 designated natural areas on the island that are under the purview of the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation.
Not much to see here but the signage is clear: this is Bloessers Pond, a 14-acre Wildlife Management Area that is a remnant of Sandy Brook, which drains into nearby Lemon Creek.
Nearly a century before Heritage Park opened on the North Shore of Staten Island, the first public green space on Kill Van Kull was donated to the city by Jenny Faber in 1906. Faber Park stood out on a waterfront dominated by shipbuilders and warehouses. Today as the city plans to cover miles of its unused waterfronts with parks, Faber Park serves as an early example.
The park offers views of Bayonne Bridge, which recently had its deck raised 60 feet to allow for supersize cargo ships to pass below. The park offers a lawn, pool, recreation center, and a skateboarding park.
Staten Island’s unofficial nickname is Borough of Parks and as history shaped this borough, it has a disparity with most of its parks on the South Shore in contrast to its urbanized north. When an opportunity arises to transform a sizable parcel into a park, civic activists and elected officials spring into action. That is how the former Blissenbach Marina on the Kill Van Kull was transformed from an abandoned brownfield into a waterfront park.
The views from the 9.7-acre Heritage Park include the Bayonne Bridge and boats being repaired at the neighboring Caddell Dry Dock. The neighborhood here is not very residential, but the parking lot and bus stop provide access to visitors coming from further afield. Continue reading
With plans underway to transform the landfills along Jamaica Bay into a 407-acre State Park, it is an ideal time to focus on the current largest State Park within NYC, the 265-acre Clay Pit Ponds State Park Preserve on Staten Island. It is a post-industrial landscape reclaimed by nature as a thick forest and wetland with five named ponds and two named brooks.
The largest of these is Sharrotts Pond, glacial kettle pond near the southern edge of the park. Unlike many of the city’s parks, there are no high-rises peeking from behind the treetops, so the view is truly natural.
On December 12, 2017, NYC Parks celebrated its 30,000th acre with the opening of Brookfield Park on Staten Island. This 287-acre property is a former landfill transformed into a hilly prairie landscape overlooking Richmond Creek. For the purposes of this blog, I traveled to this new park in search of the brook for which Brookfield may be named.
A day after its official opening this 258-acre park still had an “authorized personnel only” kind of feel. Not too many bikes or joggers to be found here on a snowy morning.