Sergey Kadinsky

Photography

The following photographic essay about a forgotten stream was created as a local history project for Forgotten-NY, a website dealing with the hidden aspects of New York City history. Launched by Kevin Walsh in 1999, it has since been published into a book.

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The most forgotten stream in Queens helped develop arguably its most important neighborhoods- Jamaica, home of the borough's Central Library, its biggest train station, and a series of court houses. Beaver Pond lies forgotten beneath an industrial park on the neighborhood's south side.

The industrious beaver is New York's historical state animal. It brought riches to the Dutch colonists, who placed the creature on the seal of New Netherland, and a street in downtown Manhattan. The beaver also appears on the Astor place subway station. The Astor family became wealthy through beaver fur.

The Beaver's age can also be related to my alma mater, it is the official mascot of the oldest public college in the state, the venerable CCNY.

I'm no longer a student, but I'm still a fan. This muscular mascot has drawn allegations of appearing to be on steroids. What type of wood is he chewing?

CCNY picked the Beaver first, but here are some other campuses that share this mascot:

. The Beaver is also found on Canadian currency. How many other marine mammals can build such extensive homes, and dam streams?

from National Geographic

 

Image:Seal of new netherland.jpg

The seal of New Netherlands (1614-74) In Latin, all 3 Low Countries were considered Belgica or Belgium.

A Beaver on the Canadian 5 Cent Coin (Nickel)

Canadian currency

 

Back to our story...

This 1850s image shows downtown Jamaica's street grid, which has changed little since then. Cutting across the center of the image is the Long Island Rail Road. By 1909, the pond was drained by the city, but the local streets have not yet been assigned numbers. Water Street ran atop the pond's outlet, Baisley Creek, which ran south to Jamaica Bay. The Prospect Cemetery has been on the map since the colonial days. This is from the 1909 the G.W. Bromley real estate atlas.

In the Beginning...

   

Before the railroad arrived in 1834, the pond was an integral part of the village, which was founded as Rustdorp in 1656. . The "Road to Hempstead" was the old name for Jamaica Avenue. The road on the left of the pond is Beaver Road, and it leads south towards the Rockaways.

 

 

Not only did the pond contribute to the village's early growth, but its native name, Jameco- was corrupted to Jamaica, making it the namesake for the neighborhood. The name Rustdorp simply did not catch on. In 1683, it became the county seat of Queens.
 
Baisley Creek

Baisley Creek emptied out of Beaver Pond, running south to Baisley Pond, which still exists today. From the pond, the stream continues as Cornell's Creek, emptying out into Jamaica Bay.

The Electric Railroad on this map is a streetcar line that later became Guy R. Brewer Boulevard. In the postwar years, the streetcars were replaced by the Q111 and Q113 bus routes.

The Aqueduct line on the bottom brought water from Long Island to Brooklyn. It later became Conduit Avenue, and formed the right of way for Belt Parkway. The name Aqueduct was preserved on the horse racing track in South Ozone Park.

Land south of the Aqueduct became the Idlewild Golf Course in the early 20th century, and an airport in 1947. It was renamed after President John F. Kennedy in Dec. 1963.

In 1668, the pond's longest lasting neighbor, Prospect Cemetery, accepted its first burial. Since then, it has accepted revolutionaries, Civil War veterans, and members of local prominent families. The last internment took place in 1988.

Photos of this long-neglected landmark can be found on Forgotten-NY's abandoned cemeteries section. In 2006, Forgotten-NY held a tour of the cemetery, but bypassed the site of the pond.

Going Dry

This April 26, 1906 NY Times article describes how an ice company's use of the pond created pollution, and resulted in the pond's burial.

 

On the surface

150th Street looking south. This was once the eastern shoreline of the pond. The ailanthus-infested Prospect Cemetery is on the left. Back in 1668, the cemetery was on the shore of the pond.

 

The cobblestone tunnel

Between the Van Wyck Expressway and the Hillside Facility, the main branch of the LIRR widens to almost ten tracks, acting like a Chinese wall between the downtown Jamaica Center area and the seemingly forgotten South Jamaica. Between the Van Wyck Expressway and the Hillside Facility, twelve tunnels breach this wall. The tunnel at the merge of Beaver Street and 150th Street still has patches of Belgian block showing up amid the asphalt. The city often neglects to pave over such long, dark underpasses.
This overpass may be old, but its design is smart- no rafters, therefore no pigeon droppings.
 

 

Where the meat is live

This view is looking south. Here, the Long Beach and Babylon branches travel south on a viaduct elevated above the former pond. On the corner is a halal slaughterhouse.

 

Where the vans rest

 

Every city transportation staple has its garage or depot or yard. The Access-a-Ride serves the city's handicapped residents, and has its repair shops on Beaver Road.

In the Heart of the Pond

When it comes to car parts, Beaver Pond is Willets Point's less famous counterpart. A beach chair accompanies a black Wonder Woman portrait.

A Sign of the Place

Welcome to an official industrial park. Real factories and warehouses here. No condos here...yet.

The Amen Corner

Across the street from the body shops and garages is a block of storefront churches at the junction of 150th Street and Beaver Road. Four in a row. No steeples or stained glass windows. The only signs of godliness here are within the congregants' hearts. South of Beaver Road, 150th Street was once known as the Rockaway Turnpike, connecting Jamaica to the Five Towns area. A few blocks south, the old turnpike's path is taken by Sutphin Boulevard, and then Rockaway Boulevard. After crossing the county line into Nassau, it regains the original Rockaway Turnpike name.

Recap of our Location

The namesake pond is in light blue, and Beaver Road is in yellow, outlining its northern shore.

The historic Prospect Cemetery is in green.

 

If you liked this page, explore my other forgotten Queens locations:

Horse Brook

Kissena Creek

Flushing River

Page completed July 1.

2008

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