A former short-lived naval port was returned to the city in 1994 and nearly two decades a new waterfront park opened in the Stapleton neighborhood of Staten Island where a hidden waterway used to flow into the harbor. In contrast to its southern shore, the side of Staten Island that faces Brooklyn does not have a long string of parks. This Stapleton Waterfront Park is part of a larger effort citywide to open the waterfront to the public.
In this view, we see an inlet where stormwater from the streets flows out into the harbor. As with many coves and inlets on the city’s shoreline, the one at Stapleton Waterfront Park hints to a creek that originated nearly a mile inland from this park.
Among the most helpful Twitter accounts that relates to New York City history is @Discovering_NYC, run by a local tour guide who shares old photos, maps, and illustrations of the city’s past. Over the weekend, it posted a map of Lispenard’s Meadow, the long-forgotten wetland in what is now the Tribeca neighborhood of lower Manhattan.
At the turn of the 19th century, the meadow was on the northern periphery of New York City. Above is an 1800 illustration of the meadow by Alexander Anderson, looking towards the Hudson River. It contained three creeks within it, occluding one that drained from Collect Pond. That creek became the route of Canal Street.
Each of New York City’s boroughs has its own Broadway. Likewise, Manhattan has a famous Canal Street, and there is also one in the South Bronx and another in Coney Island, Brooklyn. It’s no surprise then that Staten Island has a Canal Street of its own in the neighborhood of Stapleton.
It’s a street with plenty of history but nothing to suggest that a stream once flowed along its path. Continue reading