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Exploring the Harlem River's Little-Known Swindler Cove Park

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Welcome back to Camera Obscura, Curbed's new series of photo essays by Nathan Kensinger. Every other week, Kensinger will explore one of the city's less-known corners, beginning with the new parks built during the Bloomberg administration. Up now, Swindler Cove Park.


[Swindler Cove Park, hidden on the Harlem River, was opened in 2003. All photos by Nathan Kensinger.]

Swindler Cove Park is one of Manhattan's least known yet most beautiful parks. Opened in 2003, the park occupies a five acre patch of land along the Harlem River that was once used as a communal dumping ground. Before construction on the park could begin, workers reportedly "removed tons of garbage, rusted-out cars, sunken boats and construction debris" from the waterfront.  Today, the park houses a series of ponds and waterfalls, with meandering footpaths leading to birdhouses, a communal garden, and one of Manhattan's only beaches. Swindler Cove Park was created by a unique partnership between New York Restoration Project (NYRP), New York City's Department of Parks & Recreation, and the NY State Department of Transportation. The park is maintained by NYRP staff and volunteers.

Swindler Cove Park's central pond flows down to a waterfall. Turtles, ducks and geese are common visitors:

The park houses a community garden where students from a nearby elementary school grow vegetables: 

Their crops include beets, carrots, lettuce, and strawberries:

The park includes birdhouses and habitats meant to lure wildlife back to the Harlem River:

A metal footbridge crosses over the mouth of Swindler Cove, where the Harlem River meets the shore:

A wild marsh rests on the inland side of the footbridge, surrounded by a dense stand of trees:

One of Manhattan's only beaches is accessible via an unmarked dirt path in the park:

The beach faces the Peter Jay Sharp Boathouse, which was opened one year after Swindler Cove Park:

The boathouse is part of the park and is open to the community. It offers boating lessons to the neighborhood and houses boats for a variety of clubs and colleges. 

A series of placards throughout the park remind visitors that Swindler Cove used to be a local dump. 

Next door to the park, an abandoned property is an even better reminder of what Swindler Cove once looked like. 

The abandoned lot houses several empty boathouses and piers that are slowly collapsing into the Harlem River. 

?Nathan Kensinger
· Swindler Cove Park [NYRP]
· Official Site: Nathan Kensinger Photography [kensinger.blogspot.com]
· Exploring Queens Plaza's New Dutch Kills Green Park [Curbed]