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Friday, February 26, 2016

Paerdegat Basin Park

Paerdegat Basin Park, on the southeast Brooklyn coast, is one of those more-or-less natural areas that's called a park, but that you can't actually go into – with one very recent exception.

The "park" is a saltwater wetland surrounding Paerdegat Basin, which divides the neighborhoods of Canarsie to the northeast and Bergen Beach to the southwest. The basin is a one-time tidal creek that was widened and dredged in the 1930s into a 1.25-mile-long channel as part of an aborted Long Island Railroad extension project.

paerdegat basin brooklyn nyc

Last year the city's Department of Environmental Protection completed a $455 million "holistic upgrade" to the grasslands and waterway, improving the grounds and the water quality and planting 1,100 trees. The DEP monitors the park – half of which is technically underwater – "to ensure that it remains a stable environment to support the wildlife in the area," according to the Parks Department.

paerdegat basin brooklyn nyc
paerdegat basin brooklyn nyc

The only wildlife we saw was a man walking his dog in one of the McGuire ballfields at the mouth of the basin.

mcguire fields paerdegat basin brooklyn nyc

We became aware of Paerdegat Basin from an NY1 report last summer about the opening of something there. I didn't catch the details at the time, but it must have been about the new five-acre Paerdegat Basin Ecology Park, discussed in this DEP press release from October 2015. The release also goes into detail about that costly upgrade to the formerly very polluted basin area.

paerdegat basin ecology park brooklyn nyc
The Paerdegat Basin Ecology Park, photographed through the double-locked gate

In addition to the Ecology Park there's supposed to be a walkable grassland park. We'll return in the warmer weather to see if those areas have been opened.

Meanwhile, here's a short DEP video about the restoration of wetlands around New York City. It includes photos of the Paerdegat Basin area and the Ecology Park. And if you're wondering how locals pronounce "Paerdegat" – which means "horse gate" in Dutch – you can listen to the video for that too.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Winfield Plaza/Crosson Memorial Park

New York City has plenty of mini-parks where streets cross at acute and obtuse angles leaving small triangular patches of land with no other practical use. Rarely, though, is one of the streets the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, known colloquially as the BQE. Winfield Plaza, also designated Crosson Memorial Park, in the Woodside neighborhood of Queens, is just such a place.

winfield plaza crosson park woodside queens nyc bqe

Actually suspended above the BQE, where 68th and 69th Streets both run into Woodside Avenue, the little plaza was acquired by the city in 1955 as part of a renovation project on the expressway – a road which, as everyone knows, is now a beautiful jewel in the golden chain of pastoral highways that spiderweb our fair city.

Why "Winfield"? Well, wouldn't you know it, there used to be a neighborhood here called Winfield, named after Civil War general and 1880 Democratic presidential candidate Winfield Scott Hancock. (If you were hoping it had something to do with Dave Winfield, sorry. This is Queens, after all, not The Bronx. As a consolation prize, see the baseball reference below.)

winfield plaza crosson park woodside queens nyc bqe

Why "Crosson"? In the 20th century the neighborhood of Winfield lost its identity and was absorbed into Maspeth and Woodside. In 1968 the City Council renamed the spot Reverend Matthew J. Crosson Memorial Park after a noted World War II army chaplain and local pastor, born in Manhattan but a resident of Woodside in his youth and when he was ordained. According to the Parks Department, Crosson was later nicknamed "the baseball priest" because he was closely associated with youth sports leagues.

winfield plaza crosson park woodside queens nyc bqe

Either the Park Department signage hasn't caught up, or somebody over there has a sentimental attachment to the Winfield connection. The department's historical sign program, at least online, still lists it as Winfield Park.


Monday, February 22, 2016


The winter months are a slow time for Park Odyssey, but scenes still catch my eye in and around parks. Here are a few Manhattan snapshots from the end of 2015 and the start of 2016.

The first is the tip of Pier 45 in Hudson River Park, where on some days, in the late afternoon and early evening, dancers gather to tango, waltz, and otherwise while away the time in each others' arms. I see them sometimes when I'm out running. In the winter I go running only on unseasonably warm days, and on one of those, to my surprise, there were the dancers – unseasonably dancing.

pier 45 hudson river park manhattan nyc dancers dancing
Dancers at Pier 45, Hudson River Park, December 2015

My perambulations through some of the parks in the interior of the great island revealed scenes of restfulness, community, and frosty beauty.

madison square park manhattan nyc
Madison Square Park, December 2015

bryant park ice skating rink manhattan nyc
Ice skaters in Bryant Park, January 2016

union square sunset manhattan nyc
Sunset over Union Square Park, December 2015

union square park blizzard 2016 manhattan nyc
Union Square Park after the snow, January 2016

I'll be back with newly explored parks well before the winter's out. Stay tuned!