In my effort to document some of the city’s landforms that just out into the water, the tip of College Point offers a landscape of hills with views of Manhattan, the Bronx, and Rikers Island. Hermon A. MacNeil Park honors a famous local sculptor, but it also obscures the previous owners of this tip, the Chisholm family who had a mansion on the site of this park with great views of the East River.
The tip of College Point appears on old maps as Chisholm Point, after the family that owned it from 1848 through 1930. On the left is Hunts Point and on the right where Whitestone Bridge has its Bronx landing is Ferry Point. Between them are the mouths of Bronx River, Pugsley Creek, and Westchester Creek. The resolution is small, but there is a NYCFerry boat on the other side at the Soundview landing. Also visible here is College Point Reef, a rock topped by a signal.
Having documented nearly all of New York City’s named hidden waterways, I’m taking this opportunity to tell the story of land forms that jut out into the water whose locations impacted the development of neighborhoods and the city. Tips such as Hunters Point, Breezy Point, Throgs Neck, and Clason Point appear as neighborhood names, but then there are forgotten ones such as Stony Point, the southernmost place in the Bronx, the city’s mainland borough.
As the tip of Stony Point is on private property ringed by fences and watched by security cameras, the nearest public access to it is the dead-end of East 132nd Street, the southernmost street in the Bronx. At this location, one is looking east towards Rikers Island and Lawrence Point, the northern tip of Astoria, Queens.
Not to be confused with the borough-spanning boulevard of the same name, Francis Lewis Park is a 17-acre waterfront parcel on the East River in Whitestone under the Whitestone Bridge. Surrounded by tract mansions, this park offers public access to the water’s edge on land that once belonged to a Founding Father.
The park is comprised of a bowl-shaped lawn that widens towards a beach on the East River with Ferry Point Park on the opposite shore. On the west side of the lawn are a playground and sports courts.
In contrast to the shoreline of Manhattan, which is almost entirely ringed by a connected series of parks, the western shore of Queens has parks separated by power plants and other public utilities, preventing an uninterrupted walk on the water’s edge.
Rainey Park is sizable but not so visible among the shoreline parks on account of its location and seemingly empty appearance.
On the northbound drive taking Throgs Neck Bridge, the anchorage tower rests at the tip of the bridge’s namesake, a fortress-turned-college campus. The road then runs above a cove in the Long Island Sound before landing on the Bronx mainland. Hammond Cove separates Throg’s Neck from Locust Point at the southeastern extreme of this borough.
This tidal inlet contains a private beach and two marinas in the most suburban part of the Bronx, where single-family houses and quiet are the most defining features.
In my search for new post-millennial waterfront parks in New York, Newtown Barge Park offers a dramatic example of a landscape transformed. It lies on a formerly industrial site where the Newtown Creek flows into the East River, the watery tripoint where the borders of Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens meet.
At the park’s main entrance, we see the stark contrast between a parking lot and the recently planted lawn that faces Manhattan’s Waterside Plaza.
Among the streams feeding into the East River that flow through the Bronx, Pugsley Creek is obscure, with little information available on its history. All that remains of it today is an inlet of the East River that used to penetrate much further inland.
The present head of this stream is deep inside Pugsley Creek Park, a 50-acre sanctuary of plants and wildlife separating the Soundview and Castle Hill neighborhoods. Continue reading →
Its name appears on a popular tavern in Long Island City and despite its “sunny” name, it is nowhere to be seen on the surface. On a recent visit to Socrates Sculpture Park in Astoria, my daughter stumbled on a sizable puddle in the park that lingers long after the rain is gone.
This puddle is as ephemeral as the sculptures in the park, but it may carry the spirit of Sunswick, the waterway that flowed across this site on its way to the East River at Hallets Cove.
My fascination with all things GIS often brings me to take a closer look at the old maps hanging throughout NYC Parks facilities. They have so much to show for things that are no longer here, things that never got built, and the altered shorelines of the city’s waterways.
Long before the tractors and construction cranes arrived, most of the city’s streets were mapped out in a grid pattern that demonstrated little respect for the landscape and the waterways. Continue reading →