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
When I am not exploring the city’s hidden waterways, I like to give attention to the its lesser known waterfront parks. One such example is Barretto Point Park, which opened in 2006 in the Hunts Point neighborhood in the Bronx.
Surrounded by manufacturing facilities, it is a welcome patch of green on a bend in the East River.
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
In the course of choosing which waterways to profile in my book, the city’s golf courses hold many of them, including natural streams, inlets of the sea and artificial ponds used as water traps. Generally, I avoided those designed as part of a course with no natural history predating the links.
And then there’s Trump Links at Ferry Point Park in the Bronx, an upscale course that transformed a former trash landfill into a landscape of rolling hills reminiscent of Trump’s two courses in Scotland. Continue reading
On the north shore of Queens is a former island fused to the borough. It was once a resort and today is a sewage treatment plant. The waterway that separated it from the rest of Queens was called Morris Creek.
The creek was narrow enough to jump over and the resort at Tallman’s Island is a faint memory, even more obscure than North Beach in East Elmhurst, when it comes to amusements on the north shore of Queens. Continue reading
This week’s selected photo hangs on the wall at the Greater Astoria Historical Society in Queens.
The view looks north towards Bowery Bay from the community of Steinway, a “company town” in northern Astoria. A convenient old map matches the 1869 landscape above. Berrian’s Island is on the far left while Rikers Island is on the far right. Continue reading
A half mile to the south of Williamsburg Bridge, the East River makes a turn to the southwest with a wide cove at this knee-shaped bend. Known as Wallabout Bay, it was the site of a notorious floating prison during the Revolutionary War and the Brooklyn Navy Yard. At the northwestern corner of this property, a deep channel cuts inland as the only remnant of Wallabout Creek.
In the second third of the 19th century, the bay had an artificial island in its middle, Cob Dock, a part of the Brooklyn Navy Yard accessible by the ferry seen in the above postcard. The bay and its feeder stream, Wallabout Creek have a long and storied history. Continue reading
Along the course of East River, there are numerous indentations in its coastline that indicate former and existing streams that flowed into it. This week’s selected photo is a Fairchild Aerial survey of Long Island City, found in the NYPL Digital Collections.
It looks familiar but the tip of Long Island City is very industrial and low-rise, predating the condo towers by nearly 90 years. Near the edge of the industrial district was a 500-foot inlet puncturing the shore for nearly one city block. This is the story of Anable Basin. Continue reading