The borough that offers the biggest collection of hidden waterways also has the southernmost point in the state of New York at Conference House Park. Known historically as Ward’s Point, the tip of land where Arthur Kill flows into Raritan Bay has an unnamed brook that shares its location’s superlative as the state’s southernmost stream.
The brook flows entirely within the park, at its conclusion meeting the sea with views of South Amboy and the hills of Cheesequake State Park. Lovely name.
The largest state-owned open space on the Staten Island is a former Catholic orphanage that contains a set of freshwater ponds but the air here is salty on account of nearby Raritan Bay.
On the grounds of the Mount Loretto Unique Area, Cunningham Road runs across the property from its thick forest to the seashore, atop an embankment that separates Cunningham Pond from Mount Loretto Pond.
The southernmost point in New York City and state is the neighborhood of Tottenville on Staten Island. At the tip is the 286-acre Conference House Park, which needs no introduction. A couple of blocks north of it is another park that lines the shore of Arthur Kill, a wild landscape of a seashell-covered beach, ravine, and thick tree cover.
At only nine acres, Tottenville Shore Park is a nature preserve that also serves as a miniature bluebelt that collects runoff from nearby streets and channels it into the ocean, reducing the burden on the sewer system.
Staten Island’s unofficial nickname is Borough of Parks and as history shaped this borough, it has a disparity with most of its parks on the South Shore in contrast to its urbanized north. When an opportunity arises to transform a sizable parcel into a park, civic activists and elected officials spring into action. That is how the former Blissenbach Marina on the Kill Van Kull was transformed from an abandoned brownfield into a waterfront park.
The views from the 9.7-acre Heritage Park include the Bayonne Bridge and boats being repaired at the neighboring Caddell Dry Dock. The neighborhood here is not very residential, but the parking lot and bus stop provide access to visitors coming from further afield. Continue reading
With plans underway to transform the landfills along Jamaica Bay into a 407-acre State Park, it is an ideal time to focus on the current largest State Park within NYC, the 265-acre Clay Pit Ponds State Park Preserve on Staten Island. It is a post-industrial landscape reclaimed by nature as a thick forest and wetland with five named ponds and two named brooks.
The largest of these is Sharrotts Pond, glacial kettle pond near the southern edge of the park. Unlike many of the city’s parks, there are no high-rises peeking from behind the treetops, so the view is truly natural.
On Staten Island there are four golf courses, three operated by city, and a private one operating on state-owned land. The Silver Lake Golf Course is located on rolling terrain on the slope of the Silver Lake Reservoir.
The shape of the lake resembles an expanded number eight with a dam across the lake’s midpoint to separate its two basins. Once a natural waterway, it was drained in 1913, lined with concrete and connected to the city’s aqueduct.
This past Friday, I was invited to speak about my book before the annual investors conference for the 22nd Annual Investors conference of the NYC Municipal Water Finance Authority. It took place at Queens Museum, which coincided with Maintenance Art, an exhibit on the ecology, history, and future of Fresh Kills by Mierle Laderman Ukeles.
The central piece of the exhibit was a model of Landing, an overlooks inside the dump-turned-park that will offer visitors a view of the city’s largest naturalistic landscape. What’s an architecture piece from Staten Island park doing at the Queens Museum? Continue reading
When I am not getting my shoes wet by exploring streams, I look carefully at old maps and aerials in search of where the hidden waterways once flowed in the open. Last week, I conducted a park inspection in the far-off Travis neighborhood of Staten Island, where the Parks Department has a plant nursery.
The plant nursery is a former farm, and on one of its walls is a 1968 reproduction of Charles W. Leng’s 1896 Map of Staten Island with Ye Olde Names & Nicknames by William T. Davis. There is so much information on it relating to the island borough’s history. Let’s zoom in on a few details. Continue reading
Among the hidden waterways on Staten Island, Willow Brook is so obscure that a Google Street View isn’t good enough to tell the difference between an overgrown vacant lot and an overgrown vacant lot with the sound of a brook flowing beneath the vegetation. The only way to find Willow Brook is to see it in person.
I had my encounter with a segment of Willow Brook while traveling down Bradley Avenue on the way to Greenbelt Nature Center, where I was conducting an inspection. Continue reading
As you may know, 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. Even 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 down the hall from my desk at the Parks Department headquarters.
The topographical map above is undated. Taking a closer look at what’s there and what’s not there helps narrow down the approximate time of its publication and take stock of the changes on the city’s landscape since this map appeared. Continue reading