Ponds of Borough Park, Brooklyn

In today’s polarized society, people often put themselves into ideological silos and see little in common with members of other political persuasions, interests, and beliefs. Although the Hamodia newspaper is designed for a certain sector of Orthodox Jews, I can argue that its material can educate anyone who picks it up. Can you imagine an Irish-American historian from Queens reading a Hamodia article?

An example of the cross-over appeal here is Yitzchok Shteierman’s Pioneers of Boro Park column, which documents the neighborhood’s history. This is the type of work that Kevin Walsh does on Forgotten-NY.

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Where do the literary paths of Shteierman, Walsh, and I intersect? At Webster’s Pond, a long-buried waterway deep in the heart of Borough Park, Brooklyn.

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Jack’s Pond, Staten Island

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.

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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

Hello From the Other Side… of the River

You may have noticed that in yesterday’s post, the hyperlink for River Lea, the forgotten stream in London, England, links to a song by top-selling vocalist Adele.

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She represents a long tradition of artists inspired by hidden urban streams. Here in New York City, there are two streams that appear in poetry which I would like to share, along with a few recent examples. Continue reading

For Your Hidden Waters Bookshelf

When the authors of The Other Islands of New York City offered acknowledgements to other authors who touched on the same topic, their caption read, “No Author is an Island.” Matching their pun with the city’s urban streams, I would offer the following “tributaries.” These are books on individual waterways which I used as sources and inspirations for my book, which covers all of the city’s hidden streams.

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The above book by photographer Anthony Hamboussi is one of many that traveled along the course of Newtown Creek, documenting the industrial waterway on the Brooklyn-Queens border. Continue reading

Robert Frost’s Hidden Waters

Although my book was published in a time when cities around the world are rediscovering their hidden streams, in truth lost urban streams inspired explorers, historians, architects and poets for time immemorial. Decades before Joni Mitchell composed, and later the Counting Crows sang about a parking lot paved atop paradise, poet Robert Frost composed an urban explorer’s paean to a lost urban stream.

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