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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Castle Hill Point Park

Castle Island Point Park was the final reward of our walk that began at the NYC Ferry's Soundview terminal in Clason Point Park, snaked along Snakapins Path through Pugsley Creek Park, and wound around said creek. It doesn't feel like New York City at all as you approach the edge of Castle Point. More like a seaside resort in some almost-rural sort of place.

castle hill point park soundview bronx new york city parks nyc ferry

Here at Castle Island Point one comes closest to the sublime.

castle hill point park soundview bronx new york city parks nyc ferry

With the mouth of Westchester Creek on the east side, the mouth of Pugsley Creek on the west, and the East River straight ahead leading into the Long Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean, Castle Hill Point is one of the New York City waterfront's many excellent spots for observing water-loving birds. This heron, for example (I think it's a great blue heron):

castle hill point park soundview bronx new york city parks nyc ferry

And this egret, a great egret I think. (Egrets, I have read, are also a type of heron):

castle hill point park soundview bronx new york city parks nyc ferry

Look away from the water and you might catch a pretty bird too. A juvenile robin, for example:

castle hill point park soundview bronx new york city parks nyc ferry

After an unsuccessful attempt to find a bathroom (Blackgal Sea Food is a takeout spot that doesn't offer one) we headed back the way we had come, onto the Wappinger Trail, which turns into the Snakapins Path, which leads through Pugsley Creek Park, and then through the streets back to Clason Point Park, where we boarded an NYC Ferry, which had a bathroom, and back to Odyssey HQ where we plotted our next adventure – which takes us to several parks in Staten Island that I hadn't been aware of even though they're very close to Snug Harbor. Stay tuned!

castle hill point park soundview bronx new york city parks nyc ferry

All photos © Critical Lens Media

park odyssey 300

Monday, July 26, 2021

Pugsley Creek Park

Watching The Addams Family reruns back in the '70s, I used to think "Pugsley" a funny name. No doubt it was chosen – over the too sexual-sounding "Pubert," as it happens – for its hint of humor. However, as far as I know, there's nothing especially funny about the Pugsley family that is today memorialized by Pugsley Creek and Pugsley Creek Park in the Soundview section of the Bronx, just north of Clason Point Park.

I suppose back then the Pugsleys might have been the "authorities" and had a sign much like this one, which greets visitors to the neighborhood with a strange sort of welcome:
pugsley creek park bronx new york city parks nyc ferry

In the 1800s the Pugsleys used the creek to bring supplies to their farm. (The waterway ran further inland back then.) What was once Cromwell's Creek – after John Cromwell (a cousin of Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell) who had settled neighboring Castle Hill Neck around 1650 – became known as the more lighthearted, but sadly less alliterative, Pugsley Creek.

pugsley creek park bronx new york city parks nyc ferry

Of course the history goes much further back than the Lord Protector's time over in the mother country. The Parks Department website informs us that archaeologists discovered "primitive" stone tools near the head of the creek, tools presumably used by the Siwanoy Indians in the workshop mentioned in this 2001 NYC School Construction Authority report. The Siwanoy village was near the tip of Castle Hill Neck.

(Note: "Siwanoy" is likely just a loose term that European settlers came to apply to Indigenous populations of the area. There's no definitive evidence of a distinct group by that name. So what did the villagers call themselves? Maybe just "us over here." I suppose we'll never know.)

pugsley creek park snakapins path bronx new york city parks nyc ferry

The entrance to the park from the south is marked by a sign denoting Snakapins Path. (Snakapins was the Indigenous people's name for nearby Clason's Point or for their settlement there.) While it may have once been a pathway used by the "Siwanoy," today's it's a pleasant and uncrowded bikeway. We encountered only one party of bikers and one or two pedestrians during our hike. Along the way the path morphs into the Wappinger Trail, named for the Indigenous people of today's Westchester.

pugsley creek park snakapins path bronx new york city parks nyc ferry
pugsley creek park snakapins path bronx new york city parks nyc ferry

Someone apparently wants to lay a claim to the place.

pugsley creek park snakapins path bronx new york city parks nyc ferry

The path intersects the water near the creek's terminus.

pugsley creek park bronx new york city parks nyc ferry

The water level was very low here on this hot July day. I suppose this stretch didn't contain any fish because we saw no water birds here. (Stay tuned for the next post, though.)

pugsley creek park bronx new york city parks nyc ferry

The path bends around the creek and continues along its opposite side into Castle Hill Point Park, the subject of the next post.

All photos © Critical Lens Media

park odyssey 300

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Clason Point Park and Waterfront Garden

Thanks to the NYC Ferry it's now easy for people from around the city to visit some of the parks on the Bronx coast that aren't otherwise easy to get to by public transportation. A few years ago, for example, a visit to Soundview Park required a long subway ride followed by a walk through a neighborhood that seemed saddled with infrastructural neglect.

The ferry's new Soundview line terminates at Clason Point Park (the name is pronounced "Clawson") at the tip of a small peninsula that houses the tiny neighborhood of Harding Park. To quote Forgotten New York, Harding Park is "the maze of little unnamed streets and bungalows found along Bronx River, Leland, Gildersleeve and Cornell Avenues in the southwest sector of Clason Point...[I]t seems independent from the rest of the Bronx, since its street pattern is different and it's cut off by water from the rest of the borough. It's very, very odd."

As exploratory documentarians demonstrate year after year, New York City encompasses many "very, very odd" places and things. Clason Point Park itself, though, isn't one of them.

As in many places on July 5, the grounds were littered with fireworks debris. But the park's virtues, like its swathes of grass shaded by trees, remained evident.

clason point park bronx new york city parks nyc ferry

Viewed from beneficial angles, the winding paths and healthy-looking trees shading clean benches and jumbles of grey rocks make the park an appealing waterfront green space...

clason point park bronx new york city parks nyc ferry
clason point park bronx new york city parks nyc ferry
clason point park bronx new york city parks nyc ferry

...though not one for swimming.

clason point park bronx new york city parks nyc ferry

A more recent Forgotten New York post – by Sergey Kadinsky, author of Hidden Waters of New York City (a book any NYC explorer who's interested in history will find valuable) – recounts how Clason Point once housed an amusement park, and later a sort of mini-Catskills resort called Shore Haven that catered to the Bronx's then-substantial Jewish population.

Back in the 1940s, revelers would have had a nice view of the Whitestone Bridge connecting the Bronx with Queens, though not the newer Throgs Neck Bridge, which you can see beyond the Whitestone today.

clason point park bronx new york city parks nyc ferry
clason point park bronx new york city parks nyc ferry

Information about Isaac Clason, other than that he was a Scottish landowner and merchant, is hard to find. The "point" that bears his name has an interesting history, though. Here's one awful detail recounted in the AIA Guide, as quoted in a 2000 New York Times article by Philip Lopate: "Tragedy came in 1924 when a freak wind squall blew down the Clason Point Amusement Park's Ferris wheel...killing 24."

The park's upper portion winds northward along the eastern edge of the peninsula. It's not hard to imagine a good-sized resort or amusement park on this large, flat, unused grassy field.

clason point park bronx new york city parks nyc ferry

Continuing north through this quiet area of the park, we encountered only one other human, who appeared to be unhoused and was sleeping on the ground. (Not pictured.)

clason point park bronx new york city parks nyc ferry
clason point park bronx new york city parks nyc ferry

A tree full of delicious mulberries rewarded us on this hot, sweaty day of exploration.

clason point park bronx new york city parks nyc ferry

Leaving the park, we wended our way to a nearby community garden called the Waterfront Garden. Its lush, fanciful landscaping and view of the East River (or Long Island Sound, if you prefer) welcomed us inside. So did a friendly local man who was passing by.

waterfront community garden bronx new york city parks nyc ferry

The garden is somehow affiliated with the New York Botanical Garden, and it shows.

waterfront community garden bronx new york city parks nyc ferry

Next up: onward to Pugsley Creek Park.

All photos © Critical Lens Media

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Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Pier 26, Hudson River Park

park odyssey 300

Recent visits to Steeplechase Pier in Coney Island and the brand-new Little Island in Hudson River Park reminded me that I hadn't talked about another notable new development along the Hudson: Pier 26.

This ecological park, jutting far out into the river off Hudson River Park, opened in September 2020. It endeavors to give an inkling of the natural ecology of the riverbank as Henry Hudson would have encountered it 400 years ago, before European settlement and centuries of industrial development turned the lower banks of the great estuary into a mostly artificial environment.

A walk down the pier takes you through five ecological zones: woodland forest, coastal grassland, maritime scrub, rocky tidal zone, and the river itself.

pier 26 hudson river park manhattan new york city parks
pier 26 hudson river park manhattan new york city parks

These environments are not reproduced, but suggested with native plants and infrastructure.

pier 26 hudson river park manhattan new york city parks
pier 26 hudson river park manhattan new york city parks
pier 26 hudson river park manhattan new york city parks

For example, planting a full-fledged woodland forest might not have been practical, but there are some nice young trees among the multitudinous vegetation.

pier 26 hudson river park manhattan new york city parks

The pier is designed for active visits, leisurely walks – and just plain leisure.

pier 26 hudson river park manhattan new york city parks
pier 26 hudson river park manhattan new york city parks
pier 26 hudson river park manhattan new york city parks
pier 26 hudson river park manhattan new york city parks

The Tide Deck at the far end of the pier was designed to flood with the daily tide. (Remember, the Hudson River is actually an estuary, not a river.) So you can only visit it on a guided tour.

pier 26 hudson river park manhattan new york city parks

But you can walk over it and look down.

pier 26 hudson river park manhattan new york city parks
pier 26 hudson river park manhattan new york city parks

A look south offers a familiar sight:

pier 26 hudson river park manhattan new york city parks statue of liberty

Across the river to the west rises the skyline of Jersey City. Most of these buildings didn't exist when I lived there in the 1980s.

pier 26 hudson river park manhattan new york city parks jersey city

When you're finished exploring Pier 26, you could relax at another new New York City attraction, City Vineyard. I haven't been there, but I have fond memories of its late cousin, the old location of NYC's City Winery. (At the new one, live music is back, unlike when I took these photos back in October 2020.)

pier 26 hudson river park manhattan new york city parks city vineyard

Or take a walk down my favorite part of Hudson River Park, the sort-of-hidden Tribeca Native Boardwalk, which winds among gardens of native plants. Can you spot the humans secluding themselves in the next two images?

hudson river park manhattan new york city parks
hudson river park manhattan new york city parks

Educational goals aside, Pier 26 is handsomely laid out and landscaped, a beautiful addition to Hudson River Park.

All photos © Critical Lens Media

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Elevated Acre

park odyssey 300

A garden oasis in the sky in Lower Manhattan's financial district? Just so.

You get to the Elevated Acre at 55 Water St. by a mysterious-looking stairway or escalator you'd never guess leads to a pastoral platform amid the towers of high finance.

elevated acre manhattan financial district new york city parks

In the dark days of the coronavirus pandemic, over the winter when nothing much was blooming and almost no one was working downtown, a few folks still elevated themselves here for a break or a think or a stroll.

While the big field of turf lacks charisma...

elevated acre manhattan financial district new york city parks

...the paths and benches offer nice spots to either squirrel yourself away...

elevated acre manhattan financial district new york city parks

...or take in the river view.

elevated acre manhattan financial district new york city parks
elevated acre manhattan financial district new york city parks

We owe the existence of the Elevated Acre to zoning regulations that allowed developers to build higher in return for including a public plaza on the property. The platform was completed in the early 1970s, the present design in 2005. Untapped Cities reports that in "normal" times there's a restaurant and a summer beer garden, along with scheduled events.

As the website of co-designer Marvel Designs has it, the platform offers "panoramic views of the Brooklyn Bridge and New York Harbor amidst lush seasonal flora and under the plaza’s beacon tower" and is "designed to host a wide range of year-round programs from an ice-rink to outdoor amphitheater and wedding receptions."

The beacon tower doesn't look like much by day, but at night it lights up, announcing the Elevated Acre to passing barges and ferries. (The glass company that outfitted the tower has some nice photos of the tower illuminated.)

elevated acre beacon tower manhattan financial district new york city parks
elevated acre beacon tower manhattan financial district new york city parks

All photos © Critical Lens Media