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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Bayview Terrace Park

Our attempt to visit Bayview Terrace Park in Staten Island was a failure, like our try for the Olmsted-Beil House, though of a somewhat different kind. The latter hasn't been developed or opened to the public. The former, while of less historical interest, is more of a mystery, as we could neither enter nor get much sense of what (if anything) we were missing. The nearby Dead End sign turned out to be an appropriate touch.

Viewed through its gate, the site is obscured by tall grass topped by a yellow sign bearing an even less promising message. You can see the bay, though. As the Parks Department website says, "The watery vista and 17-foot drop to the beach below clearly show the origins of Bayview Terrace's name."

Intriguingly, the website goes on as follows: "The park itself extends out through the beach and into the water. Nearly 90 percent of the parkland lies under the water."

So that's the secret of Bayview Terrace Park: it lies beneath the waves.

The endless variety of New York City's parks never ceases to amaze me.

And here's another indication of a mysterious past: "Though the seaside road remains on maps, in reality, it has washed away." True enough, my 1994 Hagstrom atlas does show a road right along the waterline, though one without a name.

Approaching the gate, we found the park locked, like a community garden during unattended hours. And it is, in fact, a garden, though it's also Parks property, a garden "dedicated to natural methods of cultivation" and whose tending "remains in the hands of the volunteer gardeners," which explains its obviously part-time hours.

These peapods looked as anxious to get out as we were to get in, but to no avail. Maybe another day. Meanwhile, every time I visit Staten Island I become more convinced that the place will never give up all its secrets.

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