Harlem Meer, Manhattan

The northernmost of Central Park’s lakes shares its name with the neighborhood to its immediate north. Harlem Meer occupies the former confluence of Montayne’s Rivulet and Harlem Creek, a point where these two freshwater streams widened into a brackish estuary on their way towards the East River.

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In the initial allocation of land for Central Park, the site of Harlem Meer would have been excluded from the park, its untouched terrain  would likely have been buried beneath urban development. In 1863, the park was expanded north to 110th Street, encompassing the North Woods, a set of abandoned fortifications from the War of 1812 and the marsh where the creeks met.

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Lower Reservoir, Central Park

An experienced urban explorer knows that when an object appears unusual, it has a long history behind its appearance. One such example is the wall behind the 86th Street Shop in Central Park. This is where the Parks Department fuels and repairs its vehicles.


The wall behind the shop’s parking lot is slightly inclined and runs straight between the shop building and the Central Park Precinct. This wall is a remnant of Central Park’s Lower Reservoir, which contained the city’s drinking water from 1842 to 1929.

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The Lily Pond, Central Park

Following my recent post on The Loch in Central Park, park goer Steve Weintraub of the Blockhouse Run Club asked about a forgotten water feature at the park’s northern end that appears as a former stream on the 1994 Greensward Foundation map of Central Park. It was known as The Lily Pond, the smallest of Central Park’s original water features.

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Descending from the Great Hill alongside The Cliff, it terminated by East Drive just shy of Central Park North. Steve wanted to know whether there are any photos of this truly hidden waterway.  Continue reading

Sabrina’s Pool, Central Park

With so much excitement surrounding the lectures, tours and sales of the book, now is a good time to look back at the process behind its publication. When the Viele Map was selected as the cover image for my book, there were a couple of runner-ups. Here’s one image that depicts the subject of the book, a hidden waterway disappearing into a manhole. Nature and city together in one tight photo.

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It is a tributary stream of The Loch in Central Park, a constructed brook that emerges on the edge of North Meadow, flows beneath Springbanks Arch and down a ravine into The Loch, a stream in the northwest section of the park. Continue reading

Photo of the Week

Among the boathouses in New York City’s parks, the most famous is the one at The Lake in Central Park, where the public may rent a gondola or rowboat, eat a pricey meal, or hold a wedding ceremony.

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This week’s selected photo shows us an earlier boathouse from a century ago that stood by The Lake, courtesy of the NYPL Digital Collections. Continue reading

Photo of the Week

After a week of exclusive Queens coverage ahead of my King Manor Museum author talk, we return to Manhattan ahead of an important anniversary in Central Park.

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This week’s photo was taken between 1910 and 1915 by Bain News Service and retrieved from the Library of Congress photo collection. I am sharing it because on April 23, the Central Park Model Yacht Club is celebrating its 100th anniversary. Continue reading

Skating Rink on a Pond

Since its opening in 1857, most of Central Park’s landscape has remained remarkably unaltered. The preservation of the park’s rocky outcroppings, meadows, forests and streams is a story of beating the odds, succeeding against dozens of failed proposals to fill the park with museums, monuments, and a racetrack, among other ideas. When a development was approved, the landscape features  often sacrificed were the waterways. People can’t walk or swim in the park’s water anyway.


Why is how the northern bay of The Pond at the southeast corner of Central Park became the site of Wollman Rink. Continue reading

Photo of the Week

With a love-related holiday taking place this weekend, I found a screenshot of Marilyn Monroe at a lakeside cafe on the shore of Harlem Meer.

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 I once argued with a coworker on who is the most beautiful dead celebrity of all time. That was an easy choice. The man in the background, a victim of temptation would surely agree, assuming that he outlived her. Continue reading

Central Park’s inland sea

In a city as starved for land as New York, there is Central Park with its 843 acres of grid-defying naturalistic landscape. Last night, I attended a lecture given by Gerard Koeppel, author of the recently published “City on a Grid: How New York Became New York.” He spoke of Central as the antithesis of Manhattan’s rectilinear grid, with its winding paths that respect the topography, 40 uniquely designed bridges, and artificial bodies of water that appear timeless. The largest of them is the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, which takes up 106 acres in the midpoint of the park, ringed by a 1.58-mile running track.

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“There’s a sense of space and solitude here unlike any other part of the park.” –Kevin Bacon. Continue reading

Hidden Urban Waters of 2015

In journalism, the week of December 31 is often described as the slowest news week of the year. Editors and reporters fill in the blank spaces of newspapers with year in review articles, in case you forgot or missed the stories that left their impact on history.

On the topic of my book, cities around the world are rediscovering their hidden waters through art, architecture and ambitious daylighting projects. Below is a sampling of such stories.

Guangzhou, China

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The Donghao Chung, once an ancient moat, and later a sewer, has been daylighted and transformed into a linear park reminiscent of Cheonggyecheon in Seoul. Like its Korean counterpart, the stream spent much of the past century hidden beneath the surface, with a busy roadway running atop its course.

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