Van Cortlandt Park: land-use and divisions

Home Forums 20th Century Van Cortlandt Park: land-use and divisions

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    • #2004

      Even before its creation in the 1880’s the land area that is Van Cortlandt Park was crossed by the Putnam Railroad and its Getty Square Branch, and by the Old Croton Aqueduct.  Since then, the New Croton Aqueduct has replaced the old one, large areas have been reserved for two golf courses, and the park has been divided into six distinct segments by the Saw Mill, Mosholu and Henry Hudson Parkways, and by the Deegan Expressway (I-87).  As a result, substantial areas of the park are fenced off and unavailable to the general public, and significant areas are subject to vehicle emissions, roadway run-off, and traffic noise.  Other projects have also affected the park, notably the New Croton Aqueduct and the massive water treatment plant embedded in the Mosholu Golf Course.  The lake on Tibbett’s Brook is artificial, the brook has been diverted into the Broadway Sewer, and two freshwater marshes within the park have been drained and infilled.

      I am trying to gather publications and news items about the park’s history, focusing on land-use decisions and the many projects that have taken exclusive use of sections of the park and divided it into segments with few interconnections.  I would greatly welcome tips on where information may be located and key people that I should contact.  I will be happy to share with others interested in similar questions, and to post key materials through this Forum.

      Some of the most crucial questions that I hope to answer are:

      Why two golf courses?  How have the two been administered since their creation in 1895 (VCP) and 1914 (Mosholu)?

      Which agencies decided on the route of the Deegan through the park, and when?

      How seriously were additional highways considered (routing the Henry Hudson Parkway up the west side of the park just east of Broadway, and potentially adding yet another expressway or parkway along the 233rd Street axis to connect with New Rochelle and the New England Thruway)?  Why, ultimately, were these routes not followed?

      How and why did Van Cortlandt Park receive the massive water treatment plant embedded in the Mosholu Golf Course and built since 2000, rather than placing it elsewhere in the Bronx or Westchester?

      Do residents of Yonkers make significant use of the park?

      What major achievements of the park administration and concerned citizens have helped to mitigate the negative effects of reserving so much land for specific activities, and building major highways that divide the park into separate segments?

      Ray Bromley             mobile   518-605-7585


    • #2005

      One resource that has paid dividends in the past is the page hosting the Parks Dept. “Historical Reports, Press Releases, and Minutes.”  You can find that here.  If I come across anything else, I will send it your way.

    • #2006

      Commissioner reports are great but remember they are the parks’ slant on things.

      Robert Caro’s THE POWER BROKER does a number on Moses. Text includes input by various groups re the introduction of highways. The New York Times has articles by Moses which give his point of view and also editorial pieces opposing highway construction. If you can get a library copy of <span style=”text-decoration: underline;”>Urban Ornithology</span> by Paul Buckley, much of park history is given including how the land was divided/upset. The book is pricey and is for serious birders but has comment, references  and maps that should be helpful to you.

      There’s a lot on the web about the Filtration Plant Van Cortlandt Park – a search will bring you to a voluminous document.

      Good luck!

    • #2007
      Peter Ostrander

      I agree Robert Caro’s The Power Broker will answer many of the issues your researching. Like the biblical Moses, Robert Moses parted Inwood Hill Park, Riverdale and Van Cortlandt Park  with the Henry Hudson Parkway and is covered in the book.

      Filtration plant was a polictical decision supported by the then mayor Bloomberg and trade unions. There was a location perfectly located in North White Plains that the Westchester community actually wanted the filtration plant.

      Much of what you seeking can be found searching the internet.  The link that Nick included has much info.

      Another is this one

      The local Riverdale Press news paper has had many articles over the years covering some of these issues.

      NYC parks do not have as much protection as everyone would believe.  The Parks Dept is not supported financially as they had been a generation ago. Now they get operational funds for minimal maintenance and look for handouts from private sponsors who will pay for improvements.

      Good luck  with your research. The society would appreciate a copy ofrlink to whatever you publish.

    • #2010

      This is a great area of research!  Our poor Park has certainly been cut up.

      For more recent history, I’d try folks at the Bronx Council on Environmental Quality (BCEQ)

      The golf course question is interesting, too.  A fad among the upper classes who had their country estates in the area? A revenue source as part of park planning and department consolidation?

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