At the northern tip of Manhattan the 196-acre Inwood Hill Park offers a variety of natural elements- cliffs, caves, forest, and the curvy shoreline of Spuyten Duyvil Creek straightened into the Harlem River Ship Canal. Being in this park gives one a hint of the Hudson Valley further to the north.
At low tide the cove in the park appears tempting to cross, but the mud here is as soft as quicksand. In the background the Henry Hudson Bridge frames the Harlem River’s confluence with the Hudson, with the New Jersey Palisades on the horizon. The peninsula on the right used to be in the Bronx prior to the 1930s.
On the Bronx shore of the Harlem River to the south of Yankee Stadium is the 10-acre Mill Pond Park, which opened in 2009 on the site of the Bronx Terminal Market. The name of this park suggests a forgotten waterway on the site.
Where was the pond that gave this recent park its name?
At the northern tip of Manhattan island, the scenery is reminiscent of the Hudson River Valley at Fort Tryon and Inwood Hill parks. Thick forests, steep hills, and views of the Palisades across the Hudson River. The east side of Inwood on the Harlem River receives fewer visitors, but has a rich natural and human history of its own.
Sherman Creek and Swindler Cove offer a connection to the water’s edge, serving as examples of a waterfront restored to its natural appearance. Continue reading
In selecting the waterways featured in my book, the question on reservoirs determined how much of the city would be covered in the book and the size of the book. Over the centuries, the city’s thirst was quenched by reservoirs placed on high location from which gravity took the flow to homes and businesses. Some reservoirs were given naturalistic appearances, such as the one in Central Park. Silver Lake on Staten Island was transformed into a reservoir; Mount Prospect Reservoir was eliminated after becoming obsolete. But only one former reservoir in the city was transformed into a public swimming pool: the one in High Bridge Park.
As upper Manhattan does not have as many historical streams as its middle and downtown parts, a chapter on Highbridge Reservoir puts the neighborhood of Washington Heights on the Hidden Waters map. Continue reading
In the northern section of Central Park, a recreated natural stream called Montayne’s Rivulet flows into Harlem Meer, a lake with a Dutch name. Prior to the development of Central Park, this stream flowed into Harlem Creek, a waterway that shaped the development of Harlem in its first two centuries, flowing towards the Harlem River along what is today East 107th Street, just south of the recreational pier.
The only above surface image I have of this hidden waterway is a sewer opening on Harlem River at East 107th Street. When there is too much rain, this is where water collected in Harlem Meer and the streets of East Harlem flows out. Continue reading
When a Circle Line tour boat circumnavigates Manhattan, tourists crowd on the deck to snap photos of Lady Liberty and other recognizable downtown landmarks. I prefer to crane my neck uptown when the boat travels up the Harlem River and Spuyten Duyvil Creek. That’s where the forgotten aspects of the city’s history can be seen, or not as in the case below.
Here’s a 1923 photo of the Johnson Iron Works from the My Inwood blog. The foundry sat on a peninsula on Spuyten Duyvil Creek halfway been the Hudson and Harlem rivers, facing Inwood Hill Park. In the backgrounds is the Palisades cliff of New Jersey. In the 1930s, the factory and the entire peninsula were eliminated. Continue reading
Looks like I’m playing catch-up to Kevin Walsh of Forgotten-NY. He’s beaten me to the city’s newest pedestrian-only crossing between two boroughs, the Randalls Island Connector which opened last November.
A bridge beneath an existing bridge, it offers views of the northern leg of Triborough Bridge and a stream called Bronx Kill that separates the Bronx from Randalls Island. Continue reading
What happens when two islands are fused together? Does the expanded landmass adopt the name of the larger island? Do they merge their names in a portmanteau? Or in a nod to modern relationships, retain their separate names despite becoming one island? In a section of the East River called Hell Gate, Randalls and Wards Islands were once separated by an inlet called Little Hell Gate.
Most of it was buried by 1966, but a small section was preserved as a cove on the Harlem River, transformed into a salt marsh in 2009. Above is a view looking towards East Harlem from the isthmus that fuses the two islands. Continue reading
Shaped by the glaciers of the most recent ice age, the terrain of the Bronx is a series of north-south ridges with streams flowing in the valleys between them. An example of such a valley is Mullally Park, where the new Yankee Stadium stands. A century before the massive sports cathedral was completed, a creek ran through the park, named after an English family that briefly overthrew the monarchy and later fled to the colonies.
The only visible reminders of this buried Bronx stream are Cromwell Avenue, which was constructed parallel to the stream bed, and the approach to Macomb’s Dam Bridge, which is elevated above the valley in which Mullally Park lies. Continue reading