HARDING PARK, BRONX

by Kevin Walsh

Resembling Silver Beach along the southern edge of Throgs Neck, the Bronx community of Harding Park features inlets, reeds, and small houses and bungalows clustered along the confluence of the East and Bronx Rivers, and its topography is also shaped by Pugsley’s and Westchester Creeks.

GOOGLE MAP: HARDING PARK

Rocky shore of the East River; Harding Park bungalows along an inlet

Just a little specification is in order: the small abutment of the Bronx defined by the Bronx River (and Soundview Park which stretches alongside it) Pugsley’s Creek* and the East River is known as Clason (pronounced Clawson) Point, named for an 18th Century merchant named Isaac Clason who purchased what was previously known as Cornell’s Neck in 1793; the land stayed in the family until the family sold it in 1855. Harding Park is the maze of little unnamed streets and bungalows found along Bronx River, Leland, Gildersleeve and Cornell Avenues in the southwest sector of Clason Point. Like Silver Beach and Edgewater Park, it seems independent from the rest of the Bronx, since its street pattern is different and it’s cut off by water from the rest of the borough. It’s very, very odd.

*Nothing to do with the heir to the Addams Family fortune played by Ken Weatherwax; this was a Talman Pugsley, who owned land here in the late 1700s.

 

Kayaker along East River inlet. The NYC skyline can be seen dramatically from Harding Park.

A hypothetical resident of the planet Pluto, observing the bright dot in what must be a perpetually pitch black Plutonian sky, would have no idea, unless his race had mastered astronomy, that the especially bright dot was in fact the sun around which his planet orbited; similarly, if you were kidnapped, blindfolded and stuffed in a car trunk and dumped in Harding Park, would you have any idea that these distant towers were in the same town as the one where you stand?

The region’s first residents of course were the Siwanoy Indians, who spoke Algonquin. Europeans began settling the region in the early 1600s, and the Cornell family built the first permanent European settlement in the spit of land first known as Snakipins by the Indians, then Cornells Neck and later Clason Point. In the 1640s a series of skirmishes between the Cornells and the Siwanoy, known as the Pig Wars, were led by Wampage, the Siwanoy scahem believed to be the Indian leader who killed Anne Hutchinson and her children in 1643 at Split Rock in the northern Bronx. This act was done, some historians believe, in retaliation for New Netherland governor Willem Kieft‘s February massacres of refugee Weekwaeskeek at Corlaer’s Hook and Pavonia in today’s New Jersey. A passing ship rescued the Cornells, and they persisted, returning to their adopted Bronx home the year after Wampage’s last raid. Britisher Thomas Pell arrived at a treaty in 1654 with several Siwanoy sachems, including Wampage, that the Dutch authorities didn’t recognize. This disagreement was rendered moot in 1664 when the British fleet appeared in the harbor and the Dutch capitulated.

 

Manhattan appears as a far-off promise to the fishers working the East River. In the foreground we see the the South Bronx Marine Transfer Station, a facility once used by the Department of Sanitation to offload collection trucks into barges for transfer to Fresh Kills. The domed structure to the right is a salt storage dome.

By the mid-1800s, as we’ve seen, the area was called Clason Point. Families such as the Lynches, Ludlows, Schieffelins, and Lelands, some of which are still seen on street signs, all built farmhouses in the area, though its swampy, waterlogged nature made it a non-starter for commerce. (Even today the main shopping area is at a fairly distant remove, along Story Avenue, the Bruckner Expressway and White Plains Road.) Its seaside location and terrific views as shown here made it a logical locale for seaside resorts, dancehalls and amusement parks, of which plenty were constructed in the early 20th Century with an accompanying ferry from College Point, Queens.

 

Cornell Avenue bungalows

 

By 1900 the Higgs family maintained a beach and amusement area on the western end of Clason Point, and in the early 1920s Thomas Higgs, who owned about 100 acres of beachfront property, began leasing tents to visitors and the area formalized its own street layout and summer bungalow colony. Good patriots that they were, they named the colony for the US President at the time, Warren Gamaliel Harding (1865-1923). After World War II these became permanent year-round residences due to a housing shortage, eventually sheltering over 250 families.

 

Though Robert Moses attempted to tear down what he called the “Soundview Slums” (Moses didn’t like anything that wasn’t a Corbusian-esque housing project or an expressway; his Utopia would have been a city composed of residential skyscrapers connected by superhighways), Harding Park survived, but became City property in 1979.

 

3 years later, though, in 1982, Harding Park Homeowners Association, the first cooperatively owned low and moderate-income community in the city was formed. Harding Park now appears as if it will carry on in the future indefinitely with its city views, great fishing, and relative privacy.

 

Leland Avenue along Soundview Park leads into the heart of Harding Park.

 

Bronx River Avenue curves around the bungalows, but despite its name, does so here along the East River.

 

The NY Botanical Garden (also in the Bronx) has sponsored a roadside garden along Leland Avenue.

 

ForgottenFan consensus seems to be that this is a ’53 or ’54 Pontiac Catalina with 60s Buick Riviera tires.

 

White Plains Road, which eventually gains an el and becomes the main shopping drag to Bronxdale, Williamsbridge and Wakefield, begins here in Clason Point.

However, it doesn’t go to White Plains.

The New York Times profiled the area in November 2004…

There were numerous ferries, and during Prohibition, gangsters unloaded bootlegged hooch. Boatyards lined the shore, and the Castle Hill Pool was an immediate hit when it opened in 1927. Clason Point …once boasted an amusement pier said to rival Coney Island, according to an area historian, Arthur Seifert, who has lived in the neighborhood for more than 70 years.

“When I moved here in ’33, there were still farms,” he said. “I remember trying to plow the field behind a horse.”

The farms are gone and so are most of the boatyards, but entertainment possibilities abound. The Y.M.C.A. on nearby Castle Hill Avenue has indoor and outdoor pools, the Harding Park Homeowners Association is building a new community center and the Point Yacht Club still flies its burgee from the tip of Clason Point. It was a few blocks away, on stage at the Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club on Randall Avenue, that Jennifer Lopez first strutted her stuff. Every spring, proceeds from the Kips Bay Decorator Show House benefit this center, which has the area’s only ice rink. 

The “entertainment possibilities” are unintentionally amusing, seeing that we just got through with District, Meatpacking, but anyway, the YMCA offerings are more your webmaster’s speed, and I’m more likely to gain ready admittance there.

 

2/18/06

43 comments

yourlagnes May 7, 2013 - 12:16 pm

411hardingpark

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Don Malone June 10, 2013 - 9:56 am

Great story! I am researchering my Cornell family and enjoyed the site. Below is the description of the grant. Relative of Ezra Cornell founder of Cornell Univ. and also William Ellery of Rhode Island, signer of the Declaration of Independence.
Thomas Cornell came to America about 1633 with his wife and most, if not all, of his children. He is first found in Boston. In September1638 Thomas Cornhill “was licensed upon tryal to keepe an Inn.
On 25 July 1646 he received a grant in New Amsterdam which became known as “Cornell’s Neck”. Governor Kieft described it as running “from the Kill of Broncks land, east southeast along the River.” The property ran from the mouth of Westchester Creek for two miles along Long Island Sound to the Bronx River, and two miles deep to what in 1902 was the village of Westchester. It was the third grant recorded in Westchester County, NY. On 15 April 1667 this land was confirmed by patent of Colonel Nicholls to his grandson, William Willett. In this deed, the land is described as “a cetaine Parcell of Land, contained within a neck, commonly called and knowne by ye name of Cornell’s Neck, lying and being upon the Maine, toward the Sound or East River, being bounded to the West by a certain Rivolett which runs to the Black Rock and so into Bronckse Creeke or Kill. Then the Neck stretching itselfe East South East into the Sound is bounded to the East with another Rivolett which divides it from the limits of West Chester and a line being run from the head of each Rivolett wherewith a narrow slip, the said Neck is joined to the Maine Land, it closes up the Neck and makes the North bounds thereof.” The “Rivolett which runs to the Black Rock” was known as Barrett’ Creek in 1912, and there was a bluff of black gneiss at the southeastern part of the neck where it joined the Bronx River. Thomas was at Portsmouth again, a member of a coroner’s jury, in 1653, probably driven from New York again by warring Indians. His will, dated 5 December 1651, left all his real estate to his wife Rebecca. He probably died in 1655.

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Bill Barrett December 21, 2013 - 11:13 pm

Would you be related to a Peter Griffin Cornell?

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S. October 25, 2017 - 1:39 pm

Hi Bill,
I’m related to Cornells and Griffins.
Jedediah Cornell Sr. 1825-1905 married Annastasia S. Griffin 1836-1913
I’m not sure if/ where Peter Griffin Cornell fits in.
email me at: lilylu8675309@gmail.com

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bill e. November 17, 2017 - 4:16 pm

i lived in hrding park from 1945 till i married in 1968. iknew the biordan family and thier bar as well. my aunt by marriage divorced my uncle and married the youngest riordan brother. it was a scandal t o sy the least

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Nancy Ramos February 18, 2020 - 10:06 pm

OH my my name is Nancy Ramos and I lived in Harding park in the early 70’s I don’t remember
the street because I was young ,but we moved around 1977 . IT was the best time of my life to live there as a child Harding park was a dream
I loved living there and when I go to NYC I go over there and just look at the streets where I rode my bike my friends houses, but can anyone
Remember about the fire that happened in the
70’s where 2 children passed away in a house
Fire I ask because my mom and me and my sister used to babysit them, I remember crying for months!! Harding park for life in my heart

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Alexander Hernandez August 26, 2021 - 4:16 pm

I’m Alex Hernandez and I lived from 1962 to 1970 at 506 Harding Park. The “FILL” as we use to call it faced toward NYC and a sanitation site. The planes would always pass what seemed very close above us entering the airport across the water. Serine and peaceful times jumping between the rocks and looking over the water.

The Bronx Bloggers | Let’s Go Hiking (and Biking)! July 18, 2014 - 8:56 pm

[…] onto the adjoining Pugsley Creek Park, with its vast swampland. Ultimately you will stumble upon Harding Park, a small working-class enclave lined with bungalows. If you never knew it was there, the sleepy […]

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henry nier January 13, 2019 - 12:04 pm

I lived in Harding Park as a kid with my family. our address at the time was 423. the beach was a joy and fairly close to the house. It had a garage that my father converted to a bedroom for my brother and me. cold as hell. across the short road was an empty lot that my mother and father converted to a small garden. Shorehaven beach club was a parking lot away. square dance night was i believe on Wednesday, as i could hear the music from our house. this was around 1957 or 58. at that time for a kid, it was paradise in the Bronx.

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Anne Cinquegrana Murphy March 30, 2020 - 2:36 pm

I remember you Henry, and your brother Richard and sister Loretta. I lived at 311 from 1952 till I got married in 1970. You probably remember my brothers Peter and Paul since I was a little younger. It was definitely a fun place to grow up. Hope all is well with you and your family.

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henry nier April 19, 2021 - 7:44 am

Anne cinquegrana.. i just this morning saw your reply . Yes i remember peter and paul. It’s been many years. Just to give you an update. Loretta is luving nearby me in north carolina. My brother richard died in 2006 from pancreatic cancer. I can’t believe how much harding park has changed and the prices of the homes. They were good days in the 50’s. Hope all is well with you and yours.

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Welcome2TheBronx | 13 Facts & Tidbits About The Bronx That Makes Us Awesome January 30, 2015 - 11:20 am

[…] Bronx where Co-op City and Bay Plaza now stand but did you know that there were several others like Clason Point and Starlight Park? Bartow-Pell Mansion / Image Courtesy of Bartow-Pell […]

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Christine Cathcart February 26, 2015 - 10:06 am

I live on Barrett Avenue, Puglsey Creek, moved there 1953 I loved it and all the children in the area. We were safe as our neighbors watched out for us. I never worried about walking home from Scared Heart Church Gym after Basketball practice even when it was 10:00 at night. It was clean because we all pitched in and kept it that way. My mom made a beautiful garden on Lacombe and Barrett, everyone came to take their easter pictures there is wast huge and very colorful. Mrs Crocitto made another in front of her home 454 Barrett. I left in 1968 to raise a family of my own but went back on a regular basis until my parents sold the apartment house only one there, all the others were private homes. I have fond memories of Harding Park as I hung out there with my friend Helena Kanski, we use to play ball at the old firehouse. We did not have cell phones to txt we use to shout out at each other from the street. Summer was the best we went swimming in the Sound you could see your feet it was very clean.

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Let’s Go Hiking (and Biking)! - All Day I Dream of Travel March 11, 2015 - 11:58 am

[…] onto the adjoining Pugsley Creek Park, with its vast swampland. Ultimately you will stumble upon Harding Park, a small working-class enclave lined with bungalows. If you never knew it was there, the sleepy […]

Reply
Jack Donaghy April 6, 2017 - 11:15 pm

excellent info! i did not know the name ‘harding park’ although i’ve bicycled through this area countless times en route to city island and/or orchard from midtown east. thanks for this, and your love of nyc!!!

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MT May 18, 2017 - 11:00 am

I lived on Pugsley Ave. from 1957 to 1970, and my mother was born there. The place has changed, and not for the better.

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bob darienzo February 14, 2021 - 1:31 pm

lived on Randall ave from 1957 to 1970 as well. Was a great upbringing

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Joe Colao June 12, 2017 - 9:04 am

I remember the creek going to Lacombe Ave. There was a factory that produced round automobile mirrors. ..we would fling them like frisbies. The Wheeler Boat yard was nearby building world known yachts. Word has it that Jackie Gleason’s boat was being built there when the entire boat yard burned.
I remember Farmers Hill were Monroe Projects were built. I remember cisterns deep into the ground to collect irregation water.
Funland on Buckner Blvd. Getting laid at Black Rock! Walking to school through the dumps.
Swimming under the houses built on stilts….and of course you would swI’m as fast as you possibly could when you would hear the toilet flush through an ope pipe!

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Bob June 13, 2017 - 11:23 am

Yep I remember the day the boatyard went up in towering flames and the fire pit, dumps and black rock!

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Alan September 2, 2019 - 9:54 am

Joe, Greetings, I grew up in the Academy Gardens between Randall Avenue and Lacombe Avenue. I remember as a kid, the hill you called Farmer’s Hill. I recall cows there.I went to Castle Hill Pool as a child…then as a teenager, we swtiched to Shorehaven. They had square dancing on Wednesday nights and Social dancing on Saturday nights. Also..Funland….the batting range…the driving range both on Bruckner Blvd. The U.S. military setting up summer camps near the Black Rock. Also..pheasants flying there part of the year. Walking through Harding Park was great and I was in the Boy Scouts and we would march there once a year to the monument and then have lunch at the VFW hall on Lacombe Avenue. I and my friend read about the Siwanoy Indians and they were supposed to have their village near Soundviiew and Lacombe Avenues. So we dug some holes in the empty field there as part of my university research program and found some old oyster shells. I had a friend around 20 years ago, Arthur Seifert who grew up in Clason Point and was an historian. He showed me many arrowheads he found near Pugsley Creek and took me there. There was a rock there that the Siwanoy Indians would chip away at and make arrow heads. He also showed me a photo of a big shark he and he friends caught from a boat off of Clason Point in the Sound!! Life goes no. I went to PS 107.
Geri, I remember the Beach Movie, Larry’s Toy Store and am still friends with his nephew, and the Safeway store….and more!
Thanks for the memories.

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Alan September 2, 2019 - 10:30 am

You may email me at alangsoh@hotmail.com

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thomas kilgallen June 12, 2017 - 12:07 pm

born in 1953 lived at716 Harding Park it was a fascinating place to spend your childhood

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Bob June 13, 2017 - 11:25 am

Hey Tommy- long time- we went to Holy Cross together.. glad to see you online. I stay in touch with Ronnie B .
Regards
Bob

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Laura George June 13, 2017 - 4:16 pm

It sure was Tommy, the best place ever!

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Charles March 8, 2018 - 2:58 pm

I also went to Holy Cross school in the late 70’s and early 80s. I live on Underhill ave and really loved the Harding Park Clason Point. I have great memories and still have life long friends in the area.

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Mary October 22, 2017 - 4:01 pm

Was wondering if you recalled 712 Harding Park? My aunt and uncle lived there and I recall such fond memories of visiting them there. Harding Park holds such great childood memories for me.

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Peter O'Hare June 12, 2017 - 11:07 pm

I lived on Leland Ave from 1947 (born there ) thru 1968 ! I worked summers at Castle Hill Beach Club for 5 years ( 61 thru 66) .
It was a good area to grow up in . While most people were technically poor , almost everyone was employed, most working for the city’s uniformed services ; cops, fireman , sanitation and Transit !
It was like a world unto itself ! Truly ” The Old Neighborhood ” ! West and Siurh of Bruckner Blvd was like another country !

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Geri June 13, 2017 - 11:16 am

The best! When I dream, I am usually at 336 Theriot Ave. they say you always dream about the place you felt the safest. It was a great place to grow up! Holy Cross, PS 69, Harry’s, Rays, larrys Toy Store, Tony’s & Jerrys, Marguerites, the Beach movie, Sullivan’s, the Wall, Ozzie, I can go on and on!

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Stephan Irizarry December 6, 2018 - 5:16 am

Word Harding Park was the place to be when I was young comin up, I’m from Jersey but every time I visited my Grandpa n family in H.P. I felt loved… unconditionally

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Dolly Packard June 18, 2017 - 1:18 pm

Actually, it was Arthur Godfrey’s boat that burned during the Wheeler Boatyard fire. MY husband met him. He was sitting in the back of his unfinished boat, playing the euke. His diesel engines were being installed.My husband still has some teak wood, that was discarded after the fire. My grandmother, uncles and aunt owned houses in Rudd Place, on O’brien Ave, off Soundview.

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denfly May 14, 2018 - 5:39 pm

If you are going to troll, at least learn how to spell correctly.

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denfly May 14, 2018 - 5:50 pm

What’s ironic about the Bronx River Ave. White Plains Rd. sign is that it was never there during the 70’s and 80’s until I notified NYC Dept. of Transportation to have those sign erected there in the late 80’s for proper references. I used to supervise flyer distributers in the area and noticed there were no street name signs on some of the intersections of that area. I myself lived on Colgate Ave. by Bronx River Ave. and later to Colgate Ave. and Lafayette Ave.

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Stephan Irizarry December 6, 2018 - 5:13 am

R.i.p. Abuelo ( Victor Irizarry) and Dad ( Jose Irizarry) …. I use to love going to Harding Park man to see my family, my cousin DJ Mikey and Jomar n Alex crazy ass…

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Lynn November 17, 2019 - 12:35 pm

My Czeck ancestors lived at 725 Commonwealth Avenue in Clason Point. 1927 -1930. Wish I had photos from that era.

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Ray March 30, 2020 - 9:16 pm

My sister lived on Rudd place till they moved to upstate. First house on the right. I guess till the 60’s.

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Damokq June 6, 2020 - 1:47 am

How about indoor playground equipment? It’s said very interesting!

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Raquel August 16, 2020 - 8:01 am

Hi everyone,
Yesterday I decided to pass by my old neighborhood.
Wow what a trip. My family moved out in the 1970’s
We lived at 506 Harding Park. It looks smaller than what I
remember, I was probably about 6 yo when I moved out.
The houses were different now . I got to speak to a couple who live there now, so nice and speaking to a very nice lady that lives there now next door. It seems to be that a person Whom owned my lot bought the lot next to him. The house he made was huge, no more backyard. I was accompanied by my daughter and bestie, it was great sharing some special memories with them from decades ago. I went to PS69 for kindergarten 72-73 school year I think and I had Ms Kulusky. My brother Alex also has that teacher too about 8 years prior.
I would of enjoyed to have my mom go but it’s not wheelchair accessible boooo. I remember my dear friends the Simmons Pola with 3 girls my great friendS and a boy, my brothers great friend. Also there was Henry and his brother, that lived closer to the water. I remember the scarey crazy lady that lived next door to me. She only bothered me once when she came with a big knife and asked me where the boy that hit her was. Ahhhh very scarey. I remember my grandma living there with us too and how much fun it was to play in the backyard with all my friends. That was the only time I had a doggy TORO.
I remember the Morales about 7-8 kids, one of them had the same name as me Raquel, that was fun, living next door. Then another family moved in with 3 girls fun with them too.
What such awesome memories.
Unfortunately sometimes there aren’t such great memories like my parents split up, thank goodness though. Yet thank you to all that made such great memories for me. I’ll pass by again sometime and bring pictures of what the house I lived in looked like to the beautiful people I met yesterday.
Best Wishes to Harding Park and all.

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Debbie Ziegler Schaefer September 19, 2020 - 11:48 pm

I remember you Raquel and your brother Alex was my brother Henry’s friend. My name is Debbie. I remember your Mom She worked as a Para Professional in the schools. I lived at 209 near the water. I remember going swimming almost every day in the summer. We would walk barefoot to the beach. My friend Susan still lives there as well as my brother Jimmy. Many good memories. So glad to see your post and others that posted above. I remember some of their names. My Mom sadly passed. I remember her teaching us to swim at the beach down the road from our house. I remember the smell of the clothes hanging on the clothes lines. July fourth barbecues and watching the fireworks. I went to PS 69 till fourth gradw then to Holy Cross. I remember Louie Garza. He was the self proclaimed Mayor of Harding Park. He was always pushing a wheel barrow and planting cosmos flowers everywhere. Whenever I see them I call them Louie Garza flowers. Lol Yes great memories. Take care all!

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henry nier April 19, 2021 - 8:03 am

Raquel…. My name is henry and my brother was richard and we lived near the water. I think you may be thinking of me as living near the water. We also went to p.s. 69, then jhs123, then james monroe h. S. However never completed school at James Monroe. My family moved to Hempstead L. I. I also have a sister Loretta who you may remember. Currently living in north carolina.

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Maggie September 26, 2020 - 8:49 pm

from your article, I know much more information about the HARDING PARK and I am fairly willing to visit it one day! Thanks for your great share!

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Gregory CORLEY December 21, 2020 - 2:42 pm

Did any settlers lived in Soundview park? I am a metal detector hobbyist learning history of the Bronx
Thank you

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Katherine Simmons Lyons January 29, 2021 - 4:00 pm

Hello Rocky and Debbie, What a lovely little article to find and see your comments. Raquel aka Rocky we have been thinking about you Alex and your Mom for years, we moved around since our last day out in Manhattan and AC. Please email me . Debbie has my details too. My Mom would love to know we may have finally found you again. I am on Facebook too. email kat_nyc_2005@hotmail.com if you ever see this message.

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Sonia Rodriguez May 31, 2021 - 9:42 pm

Great history. I Lived in Harding Park when my children were in their teenage years.
A couple of years ago I discovered Dave Valentine, a Latin Jazz musician lived in Harding Park for many years.
Many call it “little Puerto Rico”. A lovely place!

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