Arthur Kill ad absurdum: Is this end or isn’t it?

The roads that reach their logical absurd conclusions along the Arthur Kill are a bit problematic for people like me who want to see a clear end. They are often a bit conflicted about what to do at the end of it all: continue all the way into the water, or just meander off into the bushes or maybe, as I have often found, continue rolling ever onward beyond locked gates. That was the case with River Road, a street I would love to follow to the water, as it ends near the Prall’s River, a mile long strait in the Arthur Kill separating the bird sanctuary Prall’s Island from Staten Island. On a map, River Road continues on past the railroad track for quite a ways, coming dangerously close to the dismal black waters of Prall’s River, but in reality, the publicly accessible part of it ends at a gate just beyond the tracks.

The part of River Road that is accessible to the public ends just beyond this railroad crossing.

The part of River Road that is accessible to the public ends just beyond this railroad crossing.

Still, it is a picturesque ride down River Road (named for the extremely obscure Prall’s River?). That is, if you enjoy riding under droopy power lines just a few feet overhead and crossing marshy creeks that, which their polluted waters, seem to take the name “kill” a little too literally. I did manage to get a glimpse of the northern edge of the Prall’s River, though. Note that this area is not part of Fresh Kills Park and as far as I know, is not protected from development.

In the foreground is a marshy stream, part of the Fresh Kills water system and in the far distance in a bit of the Prall's River, with the mysterious Prall's Island just beyond it.

In the foreground is a marshy stream, part of the Fresh Kills water system and in the far distance in a bit of the Prall’s River, with the mysterious Prall’s Island just beyond.

Clarence Barrett and the classical soldier pointing down the street

There are so many things to look at in a city like New York that some things become very familiar even though we have never taken the time to fully understand what they mean. For instance, when walking down Hyatt Street toward the bus shelter at the foot of Bay Street, there is a classical figure pointing toward the bay. Why is he doing that? I took a couple of pix there the other day, copied down the name Clarence Barrett and searched it online, and there are the facts, like magic. I still don’t know why he’s pointing, but I don’t really care so much, since I now know about Major Clarence T. Barrett.

The allegorical figure pointed vaguely at New Jersey and the continent beyond. Major Barrett rendered distinguished service during the Civil War.

The allegorical figure pointed vaguely at New Jersey and the continent beyond. Major Barrett rendered distinguished service during the Civil War.

Major Clarence T. Barrett was an important figure in Staten Island government during the post Civil War era and it is fitting that he should have such a pleasant peaceful triangle of green dedicated to his memory just above the bustle of Bay Street.

The small water fountain carved into the back of the base is still visible, but non-functioning since 1945.

The small marble water fountain affixed to the back of the base is still visible, but it is non-functioning since 1945.

The memorial was moved to this location in 1945, and it is perfect spot. However, the water fountain was disconnected at that time, and the back of the base has deteriorated so much that the writing there is quite illegible. It may be too late to restore the text there, but if that small water fountain could be restored and reattached to the city’s water supply, that would make this a welcome oasis indeed. For more detailed information about Clarence Barrett and the Major Barrett Triangle, click here for Parks Department description.

Silver Lake: a reservoir of water and a fund of fresh air

There is a cool, fresh feel to the sunny air today, as midAugust brings the first inkling of summer’s end. And with many people, like myself, just back from vacations, it does seem like the seasons are beginning to change. So this is a great time to look at our natural environment. There’s no better place to start than Staten island’s first park, Silver Lake.

The serene stillness of Silver lake

The serene stillness of Silver lake. Although Silver Lake Park is the most accessible large park on the island, it is not visited by large numbers of people.

NYC Water Supply maintenance building mid lake

NYC Water Supply maintenance building mid lake

Many people know Silver Lake as a reservoir of drinking water and as the end of the line for New York City’s Catskill water supply system. That happened in the early years of the 20th Century, as the island’s population grew. Nowadays, the story is a bit more complicated, as the city decided during the 1960s to bury the drinking water reservoir below the lake in covered storage tanks. The work was completed in 1971 and thus the present lake is not part of the island’s water supply, but merely what covers it.

One of the slightly overgrown park paths

One of the slightly overgrown park paths

                                                      Silver Lake Park was the first city park to be created on Staten Island, but it was quickly overshadowed by Clove Lakes Park just to its south, and today a walk in the park is a quiet, solitary experience.  Cleanliness is maintained in a satisfactory way, but the vegetation is in desperate need of care.

Beyond these trees is the awe inspiring panorama of the lake, but from these benches it is hardly visible

Beyond these trees is the awe inspiring panorama of the lake, but you would hardly know that from these benches

The trees around the lake have grown so thick that panoramic views have been blocked off almost entirely by lush greenery. A thorough re-landscaping of the edges of the lake could really enhance the appearance of the park. However, even without this kind of intervention, the park is a spectacular sight and is remarkably calm and quiet in the midst of the busy North Shore. It is surely a joy for the people who visit it from all over the island and from the surrounding communities, many of them filled with large, beautiful homes.

Along Haven Esplanade

Along Forest Avenue and Haven Esplanade,  homes are large and impressive.        havenEspl1