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.
This glacial pond is tucked inside a privately-owned park maintained by fees from local residents. Continue reading
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
Prior to the playground this three-acre site was a kettle pond with a stream that contributed to Kissena Creek. Continue reading
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.
This is the story of Strack Pond in the Woodhaven neighborhood. Continue reading
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.
Where park goers once ice skated and admired the fish, today’s youths play ball in view of Public School 16. Continue reading
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.
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
Where the street grid covered numerous ponds across the city’s boroughs, the youngest of them, Staten Island still has plenty to offer. Along the island’s south shore, numerous ponds and creeks that were once erased by mapmakers in favor of yet-to-be-built streets have reemerged within the Staten Island Bluebelt. Launched in 1990 by the city’s Department of Environmental Protection, the program involves acquiring privately-owned wetlands and re-purposing them as storm water drainage corridors, essentially allowing nature to channel the excess water rather than having it travel through sewers.
These preserved ribbons of open space function not only as storm water channels but also as parks and nature preserves in a rapidly developing borough. Among the 19 designated Bluebelt properties on the South Shore is Jack’s Pond, an apparent throwback to an earlier time in the Great Kills neighborhood. Continue reading
While exploring the campus of Saint John’s University in the Hillcrest neighborhood of Queens, I supplemented my research with old aerial surveys and maps of the site. At the southeastern corner of the campus was once a pond that is entirely covered by a highway. Happy thoughts of a pastoral ice skating site are tempered by headlines of drowning victims at Redder’s Pond.
What happened to this pond and does anyone besides me care that it existed? Continue reading