Having documented nearly all of New York City’s named hidden waterways, I’m taking this opportunity to tell the story of land forms that jut out into the water whose locations impacted the development of neighborhoods and the city. Tips such as Hunters Point, Breezy Point, Throgs Neck, and Clason Point appear as neighborhood names, but then there are forgotten ones such as Stony Point, the southernmost place in the Bronx, the city’s mainland borough.
As the tip of Stony Point is on private property ringed by fences and watched by security cameras, the nearest public access to it is the dead-end of East 132nd Street, the southernmost street in the Bronx. At this location, one is looking east towards Rikers Island and Lawrence Point, the northern tip of Astoria, Queens.
The largest park in the South Bronx has an Olmstedian terrain of hills, outcroppings, fields and woods. What is missing at St. Mary’s Park is a water feature. Considering the park’s age (1888) and size (35 acres), the question is raised whether it had a pond in the past.
The 1934 Praeger aerial survey of the park from the Municipal Archives, shows a ridge running down its midpoint and gentle slopes on either side. The park was about to be transformed by Robert Moses who added playgrounds and sports fields to it. But then there is the flat area on its western side, at St. Ann’s Avenue and E. 147th Street.
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.
In October 2014, Mayor Bill De Blasio and Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver announced a program, the Community Parks Initiative (CPI) to expedite the reconstruction of 35 under-served community parks across the city that have not seen repairs in a long time, and located in densely developed neighborhoods with low-income populations. Among the nine parks selected in the Bronx that year, Saw Mill Playground has a history and name related to a hidden stream that once flowed near the property, Mill Brook.
Completed in 1974 as a schoolyard for P.S. 49, now the Mario Salvadori School (M.S. 222), the park offered very little permeable surface. It was a paved lot with no connection to Mill Brook until 1987, when Parks Commissioner Henry J. Stern gave the playground its name. Continue reading →