Mid-Century City Plan

Much of my research for Hidden Waters of New York City does not involve paddling, swimming, or walking away from my desk. It involves having a grasp of GIS: geographic information systems where one compares maps of the same location to determine what lies beneath the surface. When the internet is down and there is no time to take the bus to the New York Public Library, I have an excellent resource at the Five Boro Shop on Randalls Island.

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It is the 1952 Department of City Planning map that shows the city as the agency envisioned it in the near future. The close-up above of central Staten Island shows the borough covered by a grid with two never-built highways traversing the borough.  The map has much to teach its viewers on how much of the 1952 plan was realized at present time. Continue reading

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Photo of the Week

Among the public beaches of Brooklyn, Plumb Beach is the least known, tucked behind the dunes on the eastbound Belt Parkway between exits 9 and 11. The beach was once an island, separated from mainland Brooklyn by Hog Creek.

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This week’s selected photo was taken by prolific city photographer Percy Loomis Sperr and found in the NYPL Digital Collections. It shows a footbridge connecting the mainland with Plumb Beach but the tide is low enough to render the bridge redundant. It led to an independent-spirited squatter community that was razed in the 1930s to make way for Belt Parkway. Continue reading

Photo of the Week

For the past forty years southern Brooklyn has been a magnet for Russian-speaking immigrants, nicknamed Little Odessa for its waterfront. One feature of this coastline is Sheepshead Bay, mistakenly nicknamed “the canal” by some newcomers but in reality, named after a fish whose image appeared on the first hotel in the neighborhood.

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Formerly a tidal strait that separated Coney Island from mainland Brooklyn, it was given a seawall shoreline in 1936, as seen in this photo from the NYPL Digital Collections. Continue reading