Astoria Park, Queens

The largest park on the east side of the East River is Astoria Park, located between the Triboro (RFK) and Hell Gate bridges. It has the largest outdoor pool in the city but shortly after the park was created, there was a highly unrealistic plan to give this park a bathing beach. Under the noise of the two bridges, the public can swim, use the running tack, tennis courts, playground, and lawn, among other amenities.

Until recently, the park’s relationship to the East River was overshadowed by the massive pool and Shore Road that runs along the water’s edge. With the pedestrianization of this road, the public has easier access to the shoreline where the turbulent current of Hell Gate can be observed.

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Parks on Mill Brook, Bronx

Having last visited Saw Mill Playground in the South Bronx in 2016, I returned to the site to take a closer look at its neighbor, Brook Park. Both of these parks commemorate in their names the long-buried Mill Brook.


The stream was entirely covered in the 19th century, with its most visible surface reminder being Brook Avenue. At 141st Street, the community garden known as Brook Park also remembers the stream although it does not lie directly atop the former stream bed.

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Little Hell Gate

What happens when two islands are fused together? Does the expanded landmass adopt the name of the larger island? Do they merge their names in a portmanteau? Or in a nod to modern relationships, retain their separate names despite becoming one island? In a section of the East River called Hell Gate, Randalls and Wards Islands were once separated by an inlet called Little Hell Gate.


Most of it was buried by 1966, but a small section was preserved as a cove on the Harlem River, transformed into a salt marsh in 2009. Above is a view looking towards East Harlem from the isthmus that fuses the two islands. Continue reading