Kissena Corridor Park, Queens

Since this blog was launched in December 2015, I’ve documented the city’s hidden waterways with as much detail as possible, but then after publishing the pieces, I stumble upon more old photos, maps, and postcards of the published streams.

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The photo of note here is this August 1940 aerial survey of the first World’s Fair at Flushing Meadows, looking east. It is a Parks Department photo from the Municipal Archives collection. The corridor of open land between the street grids of downtown Flushing and Queensboro Hill is today’s Kissena Corridor Park, where Kissena Creek used to flow.

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Flushing Pumping Station, Queens

At the northeastern corner of the Kissena Park Golf Course is a depression in which there is a Department of Transportation garage and a pumping station. Looking at old maps of this site, Kissena Creek passed though it before the area was urbanized. Was there ever a pond here?

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The garage is located on Fresh Meadow Lane between Underhill and Peck avenues, at a point where the creek turned west on its way to Kissena Lake. 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

What Remains of Kissena Creek

What if my book had a children’s edition for a younger audience? With a warm Sunday two days ago, I took my daughter to Kissena Park. Having recently gained the confidence to walk, she was excited to do it in open space where there’s so much to discover.

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The centerpiece of the park is Kissena Lake, a natural waterway that drains into a wetland. It is a remnant of a larger stream that flowed through central Queens on its way to Flushing Meadows. Most of this stream is buried, but where exactly does it disappear from the surface? Continue reading

Gutman’s Swamp, Kew Gardens Hills

Prior to its acquisition by New York City, the borough of Queens was a rural county with Flushing and Jamaica as its two oldest towns. Connecting them was an ancient route that corresponds to today’s Kissena Boulevard, Aguilar Avenue and Parsons Boulevard. That obscure avenue that connects the two boulevards has a history that relates to a buried stream, one that originated in an inland wetland known to planners as Gutman’s Swamp.

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In the photo above from the Municipal Archives, Aguilar Avenue bends towards Parsons Boulevard, where they both intersect 73rd Avenue. The short blocks of stone indicate a bridge. This is where Gutman’s Swamp emptied into Kissena Creek, which then ran across Fresh Meadows and Kissena Park on its way to Flushing Creek. Continue reading

Queens Botanical Garden

Ask a native New Yorker where one can find the city’s largest botanical garden, and the answer is outside of Manhattan. The same goes for the city’s largest zoo and largest city-operated park. In a measure of the limited independence that the city’s other four boroughs feel, each has its own zoo, art museum, and botanical garden.

By definition, a botanical garden is a collection of diverse plant species from many climates, locations and habitats. This includes sandy deserts and wetlands (saltwater and freshwater). In places where there are no natural streams, the botanical gardens carve out waterways that appear naturalistic and plant wetland flora along their banks.

One such example is the Queens Botanical Garden in Flushing, which has an artificial stream running through its property, which itself is a landfill covering a natural stream running through a sewer deep beneath the surface. Continue reading

Water Map for the Outer Boroughs

In 1874, a map like none other was unfurled before city planners by Col. Egbert Ludovicus Viele. Designed in a time when the city was rapidly expanding north thanks to advances in public transportation, Viele captured for posterity the locations of the island’s springs, brooks, creeks, and swamps, where land meets landfill, tracing former shorelines and hilltops. To this day, this map is used by structural engineers in Manhattan, who check it for buried streams when constructing buildings, tunnels and utility lines.

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With 82 of the 101 hidden city streams in my book located outside of Manhattan, what map did I use to find these waterways? Continue reading