Running from west to east, Fordham Road runs through busy shopping districts, the university that shares its name, and at Bronx Park the road continues east as Pelham Parkway. At its western tip Fordham Road continues into Manhattan with University Heights Bridge. Before the bridge was built, there was Fordham Landing, a dock on the Harlem River whose name will reappear on the map as the shoreline undergoes a transformation.
The site of Fordham Landing has remnants of the dock where ferries landed before the bridge opened in 1908. The cove here is polluted with runoff and trash. As the opposite shore in Manhattan experiences restoration, eventually the Bronx side of the Harlem River will also have a cleaner future.
On the Bronx side of the Harlem River sandwiched between the stream, a railway, and a highway is Bridge Park, the newest link in what will be a series of parks running from Kingsbridge to Mott Haven on a formerly industrial shoreline. At this park, one gets dramatic views from underneath three arch bridges linking the Bronx to upper Manhattan.
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 Creekstraightened 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 Heightson 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.
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 →