Last week, I was driving around in a southeastern area of the Bronx…
…when the road I was following came to an abrupt end, with a series of signs forcing me to turn right. I turned…
…and all of a sudden, it was like I was in a completely different world.
The streets had become insanely narrow, barely wide enough for a standard car width.
Some even appeared to be in a state of abandonment, with overgrowth suggesting that it had been a long time since anyone had driven down them.
I continued exploring, expecting this to just be a fluke, but the next road was the same…
…and so was the next.
Meanwhile, the streets seemed to be uniformly lined with squat little houses, especially unusual for the Bronx.
Some appeared to be abandoned…
…though flowers continue to grow at this one:
Here’s another that seems to have been boarded up for a while.
Others were very nicely maintained…
…and in fact, if you were able to step back far enough, it all began to take on the feel a beachfront community.
As I was taking pictures and wondering what I’d stumbled onto, a woman came over to see what I was up to, and explained that I had found the curious neighborhood of Harding Park.
Harding Park began its modern life in the early 1900s as a summer resort community for New Yorkers looking to escape the city. The primary land owner at the time was one Thomas Higgs, who owned an amusement park on the western side of the point. In the 1920s, he began dividing his land up and created a series of tightly packed bungalows for rental, many of which still exist today. These became permanent residences following World War II.
Some seem untouched from the days when a tourist would take the ferry over from College Point for an overnight stay away from the city:
Others have been updated in a variety of ways. For example, the neighbor I was speaking to had expanded her house to double the standard bungalow width.
Here’s a pretty extreme way of turning a bunglow into a larger house (you can still sort of see it in there).
Others still have only been moderately updated.
Driving around Harding Park feels like an otherworldly experience for more reasons than its narrow streets and miniature houses. For one thing, this is the first time I’ve ever seen a family of roosters walking openly on a New York City road.
Here’s another, hanging out on a fence.
Then, every twenty minutes or so, a plane heading into LaGuardia will fly over at ridiculously low altitudes.
And some of the neighbors have some pretty quirky items in their yards.
But please don’t take “strange” to be a negative in any sense. There’s something extremely charming about the Cape Cod-like feel of Harding Park.
The perimeter road offers gorgeous views of Manhattan…
…and some prime fishing spots as well.
Finally, as if to cap the unexpectedness of it all off, as I was heading out, I passed what I can only assume is the only desert in New York City.
Harding Park is a very unusual place.