Sunset Cove, Queens

On the road connecting mainland Queens to the Rockaway peninsula is the island community of Broad Channel. The southern half of this island is a residential neighborhood while the rest is a wildlife refuge administered by the National Parks Service. At the southern tip of this island is a smaller city-operated park that is currently undergoing restoration. Sunset Cove carries its name proudly, facing west with views towards Brooklyn and Manhattan.

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The park is under construction at this time, transforming a former marina into a restored saltwater marsh surrounding a cove that provides habitat to an oyster reef.

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Motts Creek, Hewlett

One of the most important roads in southern Nassau County is Peninsula Boulevard, running in a southeast direction from Hempstead to the Five Towns. These are the upscale south shore suburbs of New York City where creeks can be found flowing behind backyards, beneath streets and in this case, on the median of Peninsula Boulevard.

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In the community of Hewlett, the ditch that is the eastern branch of Motts Creek doubles as a route for power lines, demonstrating that as it is with highways, the easiest right-of-way for utilities is along waterways.

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Four Sparrow Marsh, Brooklyn

On the western landing of the Mill Basin Bridge on Belt Parkway, one may notice a sizable wetland bound by the highway, Mill Basin, and Flatbush Avenue. It is home to four rare bird species: the Saltmarsh, Song, Swamp, and Savannah sparrows, resulting in its name, the Four Sparrow Marsh.

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With Kings Plaza shopping center to its north and the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge to its south, Four Sparrow Marsh has been a contented ground between advocates of commerce and natural preservation.

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Conselyea’s Pond, Queens

The visual centerpiece and namesake of Brookville Park in the Rosedale neighborhood of Queens is the stream flowing through the park. It widens into two ponds before flowing out into the marshes of Idlewild. The larger one is Conselyea’s Pond, which has a long history going back to the American Revolution.

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The pond’s namesake is the Conselyea family, descendants of Dutch settlers who owned a gristmill at this pond in the 19th century. The ponds of Brookville Park are part of the much longer Simonson Creek that originates in Elmont, follows the eastern border of Queens, and discharges into Jamaica Bay.

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Thurston Creek, Queens

As its name suggests, Springfield Boulevard in southern Queens used to run past a field with a spring from which a stream originated. That stream is Thurston Creek, which its had its source near Springfield Boulevard and 121st Avenue, across from Montefiore Cemetery in the neighborhood of Springfield Gardens. It flowed south along Springfield Boulevard for nearly three miles, emptying into Jamaica Bay.

The creek emerges to the surface in Springfield Park, a 24-acre green space where the creek flows through a brick channel, widening into Cornell’s Pond before continuing south into the Idlewild marshes.

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Valley Stream, NY

As the hidden brook titled Valley Stream flows through the suburban New York village of Valley Stream, I could not title this essay as “Valley Stream, Valley Stream.” This brook also runs through a state park that shares its name, behind backyards, beneath parking lots, through two former millponds before emptying into Jamaica Bay.

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The stream flows for four miles from its source in Franklin Square to its confluence with Hook Creek. Along the course are a handful of picturesque parks, such as Village Green Park, seen above.

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One Mile Pond, Queens

I was recently emailed by a researcher at the DEP about street flooding in Jamaica, Queens and its likely connection to a long-gone waterway known as One Mile Pond. It is a pond so obscure that it did not make the cut into the Hidden Waters book and I could not find too many sources online for its location and name.

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The clue offered to me was that this pond was located upstream from Baisley Pond. A quick comparison of historical maps led me to St. Albans Memorial Park, an 11-acre expanse of green space built atop the former One Mile Pond.

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Mid-Century City Plan

Much of my research for Hidden Waters of New York City does not involve paddling, swimming, or walking away from my desk. It involves having a grasp of GIS: geographic information systems where one compares maps of the same location to determine what lies beneath the surface. When the internet is down and there is no time to take the bus to the New York Public Library, I have an excellent resource at the Five Boro Shop on Randalls Island.

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It is the 1952 Department of City Planning map that shows the city as the agency envisioned it in the near future. The close-up above of central Staten Island shows the borough covered by a grid with two never-built highways traversing the borough.  The map has much to teach its viewers on how much of the 1952 plan was realized at present time. Continue reading

Fountain Avenue Landfill, Brooklyn

In an unexpected start for 2018, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced yesterday a proposal to create a 407-acre State Park in Brooklyn. My first reaction was in line with the city’s independent spirit: “Do we really need more State Parks, state troopers and state tourism road signs within the city’s borders?” My second reaction was, “Here we go again, the Governor and the Mayor’s rivalry is now a literal turf war with a State Park inside the city.” My third and final reaction was, “Where in Brooklyn is there a 407-acre expanse of undeveloped land that can become a park?”

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Reading the governor’s 2018 State of the State address, the park would encompass the Fountain Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue landfills in southeastern Brooklyn. In the photo above these two mounds are separated by Hendrix Creek.

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Map Oddities on City’s Eastern Edge

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.

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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