Pelham Bay Park

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Pelham Bay Park
Northern tip of Hunter Island in Pelham Bay Park
Type Municipal
Location The Bronx, New York, USA
Coordinates 40°51′56″N 73°48′30″W / 40.86556°N 73.80833°W / 40.86556; -73.80833
Area 2,772 acres (1,122 ha)
Created 1888
Operated by New York City Department of Parks and Recreation
Public transit access Pelham Bay Park station
Mouth of Hutchinson River, in the park

Pelham Bay Park is a public park located in the northeast corner of the New York City borough of the Bronx and extending partially into Westchester County. It is, at 2,772 acres (1,122 ha), the largest public park in New York City. The section of the park within New York City's borders is more than three times the size of Manhattan's Central Park. The park is operated by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.


About 600 acres (2.4 km²) are tidal, and fluctuate between being walkable and underwater, due to rapid tide changes in the salt marshes and the receding shoreline of Orchard Beach. The park includes land on both sides of the Hutchinson River, as well as Hunters Island, Twin Island, and Two-Trees Island, all formerly true islands in Pelham Bay and now connected to the mainland by fill. It borders the Bronx neighborhoods of Country Club, Pelham Bay, City Island, and Co-op City.

North of the park is the village of Pelham Manor in Westchester County, and a 250-foot-wide strip of land that is part of New York City due to a boundary error. Owners of the several dozen houses on the strip have a Pelham Manor zip code and phone numbers and their children attend Pelham public schools, but as Bronx residents pay much lower property taxes than their Westchester County neighbors.[1] The southern part of Rodman's Neck is not part of the park but is occupied by the NYPD Rodman's Neck Firing Range. A lagoon nearby was once part of Pelham Bay and was called LeRoy's Bay in colonial times. The lagoon was widened and dredged when it was chosen as the site of the 1964 Olympic Rowing trials.[2] To the southeast, the City Island Bridge connects the park to City Island. A 19th-century plantation-style mansion called Bartow-Pell Mansion is a colonial remnant done in Greek revival style. It is a National Historic Landmark.

At the northeast section of the park is Orchard Beach and a parking lot that were created by Robert Moses as the Riviera of Long Island Sound. One third of Pelham Bay, from which the park got its name, was filled in with landfill to make Orchard Beach. The park is crossed by the New England Thruway, the Hutchinson River Parkway, and Amtrak's Northeast Corridor railroad. In the southeast section of the park, near the New England Thruway, there are fou softball/baseball fields, a playground for children, picnic area, tennis courts, a parking lot and several trails for walking/biking/running. Moreover, there is a large running track that was recently renovated. The renovation was part of the New York City 2012 Olympic bid. This track has a bleacher section off to its side and surrounds a grassy area that is used for both soccer games and football games. There are three overpasses that span the New England Thruway and bring parkgoers from the residential area of Pelham Bay directly into this section of the park. At the southwest corner is the New York City Subway's Pelham Bay Park station on the 6 <6> trains.

Bicycle paths go to all parts of the park and west to Bronx Park, east to City Island, and north to Mount Vernon. The park is the home of the Bronx Equestrian Center where visitors can ride horses through the parks' trails, enjoy pony rides or obtain riding lessons.


  • Orchard Beach: a 115-acre (0.47 km2), 1.1-mile (1.8 km) long beach, man-made under Robert Moses' supervision in the 1930s and the only public beach in the Bronx.
  • The Bartow-Pell Mansion and Museum: an elegant example of 19th-century architecture.
  • Split Rock: at the Hutchinson River Parkway's intersection with the New England Thruway; legend says that Anne Hutchinson, an early proponent of religious freedom, was killed here.
  • The Bronx Victory Column & Memorial Grove: a 75-foot (23 m) tall limestone column supporting a statue of Winged Victory, honoring servicemen from the Bronx who lost their lives defending their country.
  • Glover's Rock: a giant rock bearing a bronze plaque commemorating The Battle of Pell's Point during the Revolutionary War.
  • Hunter Island: a small island, home to the Kazimiroff Nature Trail.
  • Thomas Pell Wildlife Sanctuary: mostly salt marsh; egrets and heron can often be seen.
  • The Orchard Beach Nature Center is open on weekends from Memorial Day through Labor Day. The Pelham Bay Nature Center is open for scheduled programs and by appointment.


Anne Hutchinson's short-lived dissident colony, along with a number of other unsuccessful settlements, was located in what is now the park's land. The colony, though English, was under Dutch authority; it was destroyed in 1643 by a Siwanoy attack in reprisal for the unrelated massacres carried out under Willem Kieft's direction of the Dutch West India Company's New Amsterdam colony. In 1654 an Englishman named Thomas Pell purchased 50,000 acres (200 km²) from the Siwanoy, land which would become known as Pelham Manor after Charles II's 1666 charter.

During the American Revolutionary War, the land was a buffer between British-held New York City and rebel-held Westchester. As such it was the site of the Battle of Pell's Point, where Massachusetts militia hiding behind stone walls (still visible at one of the park's golf courses) stopped a British advance.

The park was created in 1888, under the auspices of the Bronx Parks Department, and passed to New York City when the part of the Bronx east of the Bronx River was annexed to the city in 1895. Orchard Beach, one of the city's most popular, was created through the efforts of Robert Moses in the 1930s.

In 1941, the New York Police Department used land from the park to create the Rodman's Neck Firing Range.

Wildlife sanctuaries[edit]

Thomas Pell Wildlife Sanctuary and the Hunter Island Marine Zoology and Geology Sanctuary consist of a total of 489 acres (1.98 km2) of marshes and forests within Pelham Bay Park. The City began landfill operations near this area on Tallapoosa Point in Pelham Bay Park in 1963. Plans to expand the landfills in Pelham Bay Park in 1966, which would have created the City’s second-largest refuse disposal site next to Fresh Kills in Staten Island, were met with widespread community opposition. This struggle resulted in the creation of the sanctuaries by a local law, signed by Mayor John V. Lindsay on October 11, 1967.

The Thomas Pell Wildlife Sanctuary makes up the westerly part of Pelham Bay Park (2,764 acres). Included within its bounds are Goose Creek Marsh and the saltwater wetlands adjoining the Hutchinson River as well as Goose Island, Split Rock, and the oak-hickory forests bordering the Split Rock Golf Course. The area is home to a variety of wildlife including raccoon, egrets, hawks, and coyotes. The Sanctuary is named for Thomas Pell, the first European to control the land.

Located north of Orchard Beach, the Hunter Island Marine Zoology and Geology Sanctuary encompasses all of Twin Islands, Cat Briar Island, Two Trees Island, and the northeastern shoreline of Hunter Island. It contains many noteworthy geological features including glacial erratics, large boulders that were deposited during the last ice age nearly 15,000 years ago. The rocky coast of Twin Islands, reminiscent of the New England shorefront, is the southernmost outcropping of Hartland Schist, the major bedrock component of such coastlines. The sanctuary supports a unique intertidal marine ecosystem that is rare in New York State.

Around 1900, a land berm was created across Turtle Cove for rails for horsecars. This berm caused the north end of Turtle Cove to become mostly freshwater, which attracted freshwater drinking rare birds in the meadow. A 3-foot (0.91 m) diameter concrete culvert was placed across the berm to allow salt water from Eastchester Bay, but leaves and vegetation blocked this culvert. In 2010 NYC Parks removed the old culvert and dug a trench with a backhoe machine to make a canal that floods the north end with salt water, which drives away the freshwater birds. The city Parks department placed an attractive foot bridge that allows park users to walk across this new canal and along the ancient land berm. Washington's Journals recalls the Battle of Pell's Point took place at the isthmus of Anne's Neck near some huge boulders by a freshwater meadow.[3]


  1. ^ Gross, Jane (1997-05-06). "A Tiny Strip of New York That Feels Like the Suburbs". The New York Times. Retrieved June 9, 2012. 
  2. ^ NYC Department of Parks and Recreation - THE LAGOON
  3. ^ City Island Birds, Berm removed

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°51′56″N 73°48′30″W / 40.8656°N 73.8083°W / 40.8656; -73.8083