Huguenot Ponds, Staten Island

On the South Shore of Staten Island between Arbutus and Wolfe Creeks there is a set of ponds that are part of the larger Bluebelt system, located within private, state, and city-owned land. One such example is Huguenot Ponds in the neighborhood of Huguenot on Huguenot Avenue.

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The pond is part of the Arbutus Creek Bluebelt, a watershed that drains into Arbutus Creek. This 1.53-acre constructed wetland is an important element in the city’s effort to manage storm runoff through natural means rather than sewers.

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Crystal Lake, Queens

The neighborhood of Kew Gardens is a mix of historic single-family residences, prewar co-ops, and recent infill condo boxes. It was built atop the glacial knob-and-kettle terrain that made for excellent golfing and contained a set of ponds dating to the last ice age. The largest of these was Crystal Lake.

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As seen on this 1909 surveyor’s photo, the scene is pastoral but within a year this pond would be filled in favor of a train station that is still there today.

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Indian Pond, Bronx

In the leafy corner of northwestern Bronx is the 140-acre residential enclave of Fieldston. seemingly a village inside the city, its private streets are open to traffic, but no parking is allowed. Its homes resemble a Thomas Kinkade painting, preserved by restrictive covenants and the city’s landmarks law. It also has its private parks, including one with a pond inside it.

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This glacial pond is tucked inside a privately-owned park maintained by fees from local residents. Continue reading

Bowne Pond, Queens

To the north of downtown Flushing is the Korean commercial corridor on Northern Boulevard, and north of that, the suburban blocks of Broadway-Flushing, where one may still find sizable unattached homes with grassy lawns. Century-old restrictive covenants preserve the neighborhood’s historic appearance in a borough where undecorated brick boxes and glass condo towers are becoming the norm.

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In the center of this quiet neighborhood is Bowne Park, an 11.8-acre green space with a pond that was a private estate until 1925. For more than two centuries prior, it belonged to the Bowne family, which has roots in Flushing going back to John Bowne, who arrived in 1631. Continue reading

Mid-Century GIS

As you may know, 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. Even 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 down the hall from my desk at the Parks Department headquarters.

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The topographical map above is undated. Taking a closer look at what’s there and what’s not there helps narrow down the approximate time of its publication and take stock of the changes on the city’s landscape since this map appeared. Continue reading

Clifton Lake, Staten Island

As the last borough in the city with substantial undeveloped land, Staten Island also has the largest number of hidden waterways in the city. On a dead-end one-lane road just north of Fort Wadsworth is a rare privately-owned pond.

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Located in the Shore Acres residential enclave, this kettle pond is situated entirely within private land, divided between three properties. In 1924, photographer William J. Grimshaw was given access to the pond, which hasn’t changed much over the decades, except for a fence to keep outsiders out of the water. Continue reading

Photo of the Week

As is often the case, parks are built atop buried waterways as such places are too costly to be developed. An example of such a park is Utopia Playground in the Fresh Meadows neighborhood of Queens, designated as a park in 1942.

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Prior to the playground this three-acre site was a kettle pond with a stream that contributed to Kissena Creek. Continue reading

Strack Pond, Queens

Tonight I will be speaking before the Sierra Club at the Jackson Heights Jewish Center. With this lecture in mind, here is the story of a Queens pond that disappeared and then reappeared in the woods of Forest Park.

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This is the story of Strack Pond in the Woodhaven neighborhood. Continue reading

Linden Park, Queens

Although it is only 3.08 acres in size, a park in the Corona neighborhood of Queens has the distinction of being one of a few in the city that predates Central Park. Known officially since 2005 as Park of the Americas, it opened to the public in 1854 as Linden Park, sharing its name with a pond that lay in its center.

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Where park goers once ice skated and admired the fish, today’s youths play ball in view of Public School 16. Continue reading

Maple Grove Cemetery, Kew Gardens

In an age when available cemetery plots are dwindling in New York, I feel fortunate that my family members planned ahead by reserving their final resting places in the same cemetery, allowing for the convenience of paying respect to multiple individuals in one visit. What it offers with access, Mount Hebron Cemetery lacks in design with most of its tombstones packed tightly next to each other. Roadways and walking paths are so narrow that one can trip on a tombstone.

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The city’s cemeteries weren’t always like this. In the 19th century, they were deigned in the appearance of burial parks, with naturalistic landscaping, winding paths and water features. One such example is Memorial Park Lake at Maple Grove Cemetery in Kew Gardens, Queens. The above photo relates to a visit in the 1950s by local resident Jack Kerouac, which inspired a poem. Continue reading