When I am not writing about waterways, I make videos on the history of parks. Recently I published one on the State Parks of Long Island, the region of New York that sticks out into the ocean.
There are 29 state parks in total in the region of Long Island (if you include Brooklyn and Queens, it would be 33, but that’s for another video). Concerning waterways, these parks include former reservoirs, creeks, inlets, barrier islands, and the open water of the ocean. Former estates, botanical gardens, military installations, hunting clubs, and country clubs, are included in this collection of state parks. This videos is a good way to welcome the summer season.
Some of Long Island’s hidden streams flow through state parks (Valley Stream), and others flow alongside highways that share the name (Meadowbrook). But a truly hidden stream doesn’t have such counterparts to put in on the map. This is the story of Milburn Creek, which flows for three and a half miles on the south shore of Nassau County. Along the way, it flows past the backyards of Roosevelt, Baldwin, and Freeport.
In this scene near the headwaters of the creek, we are looking upstream at Westbrook Lane and Brookside Avenue on the border of Roosevelt and Baldwin. The stream emerges a block to the north where the eastbound ramp of the Southern State Parkway touches on Brookside Avenue.
Having written previously about Pine Stream and Mill River that flow through the suburban community of West Hempstead, there is a third hidden waterway here that begins its course alongside a train station that may have been named after this stream, or perhaps not.
This very obscure stream appears on the surface in a ravine next to the Lakeview station on the West Hempstead Branch, looking south from Eagle Avenue, which crosses this single-track line at the source of the stream. The sources of this stream have been paved over and developed as tract homes marched across this landscape of gardens and farms. Water appears here only after a substantial rainfall. Lakeview is not an official village, and most letters addressed to this community have it as part of West Hempstead, itself not an official village but part of the larger town of Hempstead. So the question here is whether Lakeview is named for a long-forgotten pond on Schodack Brook, or the much larger Hempstead Lake that is a ten-minute walk east of this station?
In F. Scott FitzGerald’s classic novel The Great Gatsby, West Egg is the pseudonym for Great Neck and the much more upscale peninsula facing it is East Egg, which in reality is Manhasset, a collection of villages jutting into the Long Island Sound. hidden behind the mansions are brooks and ponds whose names relate to past landowners and their once-sizable estates overlooking Manhasset Bay.
The Leeds Pond Preserve, originally built as the Norwood farm and owned by the Sizer family, was purchased by Herman Goldman, a prominent maritime attorney and tax expert, as a retreat to entertain friends and family.
Across the city line from the Queens neighborhood of Little Neck is the Great Neck peninsula of Nassau County. The name Great Neck includes the Village of Great Neck, eight other villages, and a handful of communities that share an upscale appearance with plenty of woodland and backyard space where hidden waters flow between the properties. Each stream has its own history that relates to the story of Great Neck.
In particular, one unnamed creek flows a couple of blocks from my uncle’s house and after a few visits, I followed it from its source to the sea.
On my childhood trips from Queens to Jones Beach, my family drove on the Meadowbrook State Parkway. The highway’s 12.5-mile route runs mostly through a thickly forested landscape before the trees give way to the salt meadows of the south shore.
The forest on the highway’s shoulders gives the impression of wilderness, but behind it are thousands of tract houses built during the 1950s suburban housing boom. Also not visible from the highway is its namesake stream, East Meadow Brook, which also shares its name with a nearby suburban community. One place where motorists can see it is at the Merrick Road cloverleaf, where it appears as a tidal inlet. Continue reading →
As the hidden brook titled Valley Stream flows through the suburban New York village of Valley Stream, I could not title this essay as “Valley Stream, Valley Stream.” This brook also runs through a state park that shares its name, behind backyards, beneath parking lots, through two former millponds before emptying into Jamaica Bay.
The stream flows for four miles from its source in Franklin Square to its confluence with Hook Creek. Along the course are a handful of picturesque parks, such as Village Green Park, seen above.
Historically, it was easy to tell when you were entering or leaving a city. Its borders were indicated by walls and gates for centuries and in more recent times by generous greenbelts that separated one city from another. Between Belmont Park and the Laurelton neighborhood in eastern Queens, the Cross Island Parkway straddles the city line, separating the city from the suburbs of Nassau County.
At a point just south of Linden Boulevard, the parkway has a tight hairpin interchange with Southern State Parkway, and a hidden stream flows beneath the twisting “suicide” curve.
As often happened, when planners were charting paths for future highways, the easiest routes to map were along existing streams, where property acquisition was much easier to achieve. This week’s photo is from an aerial survey conducted on August 8, 1951. The photo comes from the New York State Archives.