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Notes for a someday North River page



Mama and Papa Canada Goose have hatched a brood on "my" North River pier each of the past three springs (at least--that's as long as I've kept close watch). Xavier told me that two had hatched the Wednesday before the Saturday when I asked a few weeks ago. ...
photos: adpFisher
[photo: week-old gosling] Age? Weather? A normal brood is at least five; Mama hatched seven last year. But only this chick was nibbling at the algae on the pilings alongside Mama and Papa Goose by the next Wednesday. Worse was to come. This chick too had disappeared a few days later. Mama and Papa Goose glide among the pilings alone now. (See the gosling in the first snap, paddling near the piling at bottom right?) (SJ Rozan also has been keeping an eye on riverfront avian doings.) One of these days I'll get around to documenting past seasons. Just wanted even if too hastily to memorialize this poor lost last chick. ...
But while I'm at it I must note the cormorants--the cats, so to speak, of "my" pier, graceful, aloof, keeping their distance, oblivious to their goofiness--and the acrobats, the barn swallows, wheeling, soaring, swooping, just having one helluva good time, but not very interesting at rest and way too fast in darting flight for anything short of video. Not to slight the terns (this one favors this particular Pier 40 piling) and gulls. [photo: tern] They may be as common as sparrows and pigeons, but when they're scarce--as they usually seem to be lately--the What's wrong with this picture? sense is unsettling. <24 july:> Finally nailed down what those lumps are that I spotted perched on pilings at Pier 26 at dusk a few times in 2004. They're back (still there?): [photo: heron] black-crowned night-herons. Not rare; I'd just never seen any before.
Then, inland so to speak, there was the mid-spring dusk I noticed three or four clusters of three or four people each gathered quietly alongside the Downing Street yard that's an easement for Number 10 (sic). What's up? I asked. Up at the top of one of those tall trees: a huge horned owl, biggest bird I ever saw that wasn't a Canada goose. I was as stunned as the first time, maybe 10 years ago, I first spotted the cormorants fishing off the abandoned, locked, much-lamented Pier 32, a rich de facto wildlife preserve that Pataki's above-the-law Hudson River Park Trust inexorably demolished two or three years ago.
What group of neighborhood googoos would contest demolition of a wildlife preserve at West and Canal streets? Who even knew? Not for nothing were members of a construction union leafleting for Pataki outside a polling place near me on a recent election day. "You don't even deserve to call yourselves a union," I told one. He just shrugged when I told him why after he asked. Now Pier 32 is a long set of sterile placeholder pilings. It's slated to be the site of--what else?--a wildlife sanctuary pier. One can safely assume that will happen someday after we're all riding the Second Avenue subway. First they're going to demolish and gentrify "my" pier and the stubby one next to it that I'm just as fond of. The New York Times, which never saw a destruction project it didn't love, even ran an editorial hounding the HRPT to do it. Sigh. Whatever, I'd thought--I'm not making this up--that cormorants were Japanese, maybe mythical, creatures I'd never see in my lifetime except in watercolor prints. I cherish every warm, sunny day Pataki's Hudson River Park Trust lets me continue to enjoy them and the ramshackle piers they inhabit ... till "my" piers become as socially acceptable and sterile--fit for NYT Style pages--as HRPT's Village and Chelsea piers. --adpF, 24 June 2005

The day of two tugs, the big one obscured by the trees in this snap, the one normally on the job uncharacteristically alongside the barge. For a zipped file of a few print-quality "Floating Island" shots click on the image.

Art Off the Beach

photos: adpFisher

I'd be a liar if I said I've seen some strange things afloat in North River currents. In fact, the only thrills (as a Manhattan nondriver who doesn't give a hoot about gas prices except for their effect on the price of goods--blow it out your ear, SUV patriot) are the dominance and variety of wind-driven and people-powered boats and of birds that surprise me only because I never paid attention before to flying fauna. The flotsam and jetsam I see are mundane.
So spying a classic little red tug off Pier 25 towing a grove of maybe a dozen trees, assorted species, apparently growing aboard its barge would have been pure whimsical delight yesterday but for some turmoil at not having my camera (the predicted Hurricane Ophelia rain never fell).
Although I assumed the trees were being transported ingeniously for transplanting, from the start the equation didn't quite compute. The unwieldy load struck me intuitively as one that demanded a tug alongside, not pulling. Then when the tug started parading the grove up and down between a point out of sight south of Rockefeller Park and Pier 34, where they tied up for awhile, it dawned on me that an art event I hadn't read about was unfolding.
<update 22 September 2005   Oh, well, duh. So it was a posthumous Robert Smithson earthwork, "Floating Island": "Just like any other barge, only this one has bark and leaves," by Nicole Davis, 21-27 September 2005, The Villager, or--grab it while you can--"It's not easy making art that floats," by Randy Kennedy, 16 September 2005, NYTimes.>
While we watched from Pier 40 today as the barge, tug, and a new, larger, assisting tug literally emerged from the mist, Noreen's friend Jessie confirmed that: she'd read about the artwork in an NYC tabloid. (When the vessels were still relatively distant in the upper harbor they--along with the diesel smoke the larger tug spewed--formed a dark mass that Noreen and I, who had yet to meet, mistook for an oily fire. Then ... joy--the "fire" was the grovebarge and I had the camera!) So, on two successive days in New York City's late summer 2005--the first in my memory when summer temperatures held through the eve of the equinox--the North River finally did yield a marine surprise.
Jessie and I lamented the sweet lost days when Battery Park City was still a politicians'/developers'/construction unions' wet dream and Creative Time's--i.e., Anita Contini's--sublime Art on the Beach projects blessed the acres of sand dunes where those unholy buildings now house the wholly undeserving rich at taxpapers' expense. (You remember--that's where Rudy's top cop crony Bernie Kerik conducted concurrent extramarital affairs in a corporate-bought-and-paid "love nest" [!--haven't you always longed for an excuse to use that term?] overlooking ground zero after the WTC attack.) Ironically, Jessie ended up working a security gig for years in a WFC building on those sodded sands, in a building across West Street from the WTC so well-sealed she learned only when she got to the street 11 September that the attack had been airborne, not courtesy of conventional bombers.
I've no idea who did bargegrove or why, but--environmental issues notwithstanding--it surely if perhaps unintentionally represented the Art on the Beach spirit driven offshore. --adpF, 17 September 2005
<update 25 September 2005   While it's hard to know what to make of some of this piece, "A Miniature Gate in hot pursuit of a miniature Central Park" (Kennedy, 24 September 2005, NYTimes) reports a blissfully witty response to the delightful 100 per cent-scale bathtub toy that's been chugging around the island lately. A skiff carrying a single reproduction (?) of a Christo/Jeanne-Claude Central Park "Gate" chasing a tiny floating woods is right up there with the Crackers. Alas, although the barge passed me off Battery Park City's South Cove that day I saw none of the drama, which all seems to have happened on the East River side (the big aerial shot the print NYT ran made it to the Web cropped at the top but still meaningful). I remember Smithson's name; how many other non-art-world residents do? Will be interesting to see how the inevitable reconsideration shakes out. If Christo and Jeanne-Claude turn out to have been aboard that skiff they'll finally convince me they deserve all the hooha. (For the record, the smoky diesel tug seems to have been a one-day thing. At this point, "Floating Island" has been out there long enough to show some seasonal--or is it [shudder] entropic--change.









You be the judge. From Pier 40, 17 September, then from Battery Park City's South cove, 23 September.) For the moment anyway, "the water garden"--as my friend from the islands and Pier 25 called it when he gleefully spotted it approaching from downriver the other day--and the saffron skiff have restored my shaky faith that the things that make life worth living aren't just memories as remote as Art on the Beach.
(Sorry 'bout the deterioration of quality of these snapshots, which come out of the camera fabulously detailed, before I turn them to mud prepping them for www. Hope to get that under control when the weather turns.) >


adpFisher nyc 1 october 2005
photographs copyright © 2005 by the credited photographers