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.
Back in March 2017, I documented the brook flowing along Bard Avenue on the North Shore of Staten Island. At the time I wrote that its furthest place aboveground was at Moody Place, which borders on Richmond University Medical Center. A tip from a colleague at Parks sent me further upstream where I found another piece of Logan’s Spring Brook in open view.
This piece of Logan’s Spring Brook can be seen from the north side of Castleton Avenue between Walbrooke and Kissel Avenues. It flows in an alley then disappears below Castleton Avenue.
On the ridge overlooking Raritan Bay and the Atlantic Ocean is a set of connected parks, the Staten Island Greenbelt. High Rock Park is regarded by the Parks Department as the “buckle” of the Greenbelt. The park has its natural ponds, and not all of them have names.
Two such ponds are at the southern edge of High Rock Park, separated by the unused Altamont House. For the purpose of this post, I’ll call them Altamont Ponds.
On the South Shore of Staten Island between Arbutus and Wolfe Creeks there is a set of ponds that are part of the larger Bluebelt system, located within private, state, and city-owned land. One such example is Huguenot Ponds in the neighborhood of Huguenot on Huguenot Avenue.
The pond is part of the Arbutus Creek Bluebelt, a watershed that drains into Arbutus Creek. This 1.53-acre constructed wetland is an important element in the city’s effort to manage storm runoff through natural means rather than sewers.
In a wide valley to the east of Grymes Hill is a 17-acre park containing three glacial kettle ponds tucked in a preserve that is its own miniature watershed.
In contrast to the island’s south shore that has dozens of preserved ponds and creeks, Eibs Pond is on the eastern side of Staten Island, a short drive from the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.
The southernmost and perhaps least crowded public beach in New York City is at Wolfe’s Pond Park. It is a small stretch of sand on the otherwise pebble-strewn Raritan Bay. Behind the beach is a berm designed to hold back storm surges and behind it is Wolfe’s Pond, a historic waterway that nearly touches the ocean.
Down here, there are plenty of New Jersey radio stations playing on the radio, with Keyport and Keansburg facing across the bay. Like many parks on Staten Island, Wolfe’s Pond Park expanded in a piecemeal fashion, leaving a few homes within its borders. The homeowners live inside a forest knowing that they will never have to worry about other homes being built next to theirs.
Among the boroughs, Staten Island has the largest number of hidden waterways, most of them still in their natural condition as this borough is often regarded as the city’s last frontier. Long before the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge connected the island to Brooklyn, its north Shore was already an established hive of industry. In the West Brighton neighborhood, Factory Pond supplied water for the New York Dyeing and Printing Works, a major employer and polluter on the North Shore.
In the undated etching above, Factory Pond is seen behind the smokestacks, with Staten Island’s Broadway in the foreground. The pond was gone by 1908, and today on its site is Corporal Thompson Park. Here’s the story of a Staten Island pond that is no longer there.
In the West New Brighton neighborhood of Staten Island, one would see historic cottage homes with spacious lawns and quiet tree-lined streets. The largest park here is Snug Harbor campus through which Harbor Brook flows. Its western tributary is not as easy to access, flowing mostly through private properties.
For a few blocks on Bard Avenue, Logan’s Spring Brook weaves through yards along the road between Moody Place and Wales Place. Continue reading