Fewer Traces of Horse Brook, Queens

With the coronavirus pandemic shutting down public life, one can stay at home or search for outdoor spaces where there are few other people and enjoy the natural sights. One can also do research from home on hidden urban waterways by comparing historical photos, aerial surveys, and maps.

horse colonia 2020

On the corner of 108th Street and the Long Island Expressway, is a previously underdeveloped superblock where Horse Brook flowed. Construction is underway on a trio of affordable apartment towers to join the three that were built here in the 1970s. Block by block, the empty spaces where Horse Brook flowed are filling up with buildings, leaving fewer traces of this phantom waterway.

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Horse Brook block facing development

If there is a hidden stream in New York City that resonates the most in my life, it is Horse Brook, whose course runs directly below my mother’s house. No trace of this stream remains today as it was gradually covered in phases. On the map, the only hints of this stream are superblocks that defy the surrounding street grid. These blocks avoided development until technology enabled construction atop the high water table marking the former streambed.

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The last entirely undeveloped superblock on the stream’s path is the Newtown High School athletic field. Recently, this site was proposed for a pre-kindergarten. In response, Newtown High School alum Libely Rivas Tejada started a petition to preserve the open space. So far, 570 individuals have signed on. Continue reading