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      Text and photographs are © by Ellen Spector Platt & Ellen Zachos, all rights reserved.

      Showing posts with label park. Show all posts
      Showing posts with label park. Show all posts

      Sunday, June 2, 2013


      Take the tram at 59th & 2nd. Ave for an astounding ride over the East River to Roosevelt Island, then a 25 cent bus ride or a 3/4 mile walk to the new park at the southern tip of the Island. The 59th St. bridge parallels the tramway.
       Designed by famed architect Louis I. Kahn in 1973 to honor FDR and never built, it was finally constructed starting in 2010 and opened as a NY State Historical park last fall. At the time of planning Nelson Rockefeller was Governor, John Lindsey was Mayor, this plot of land was called Welfare Island, and NYC was heading for bankruptcy.
      As you approach the park, you pass the ruin of a small pox hospital which may be preserved as a visitor center.
      A park ranger explained that Kahn not only designed the space but chose the trees, copper beeches against the facade of the hospital, and two allees of lindens flanking a simple lawn.
       As you enter the park, the vista is toward the narrow island tip, the apex of a triangle, pointing to a grand bust of F.D.R. and thence to the Atlantic Ocean and Europe, which Roosevelt helped to save during WWII.
       To the right is the general assembly of the UN that the President helped to form. On the back of the monument is inscribed part of the Four Freedoms speech from 1939.
       The park is simple and direct, wholly satisfying. What Kahn obviously knew and I didn't realize is that because of the vanishing perspective, when you turn around to walk back to the entrance, the lawn seems no longer triangular but rectangular, an optical illusion. I didn't even see it until I came home and looked at my images.
      Though I'm no longer a fan of perfect lawns, this park was designed 40 years ago when such lawns were the ideal, so I'm more forgiving.
      On Memorial Day 2013, Vietnam Vet Ben Platt joined U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney right, and Singer/Composer Carole King in laying a wreath at the monument. Amazingly, the wreath was formed of all fresh, undyed flowers and foliage, so I didn't have to run up and start discarding offending materials.
      The park is free and open to the public  from 9am to 7pm 6 days a week, closed Tues. Learn more.

      Wednesday, June 23, 2010


      (double click on any image to enlarge)
      If you answered Queens NYC, you would be correct. Right off the Belt Parkway, four miles from JFK Airport, enter the other world of the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, part of the Gateway National Recreation Area. We walked an easy 2 mile trail, stayed on the gravel path as was demanded, managed to see Osprey chicks on their nesting platform, and a turtle energetically covering a clutch of eggs she had deposited in the middle of a dirt road. The orange flag warned Park staff not to drive vehicles over the area. Native species of reptiles and amphibians have been introduced and there is an active terrapin nesting area set aside.Because there are not a
      lot of trees on site there
      is an nesting box pro-
      gram. I saw boxes for
      bats,Tree Swallows,
      House Wrens, Kestrals,
      and this big one for
      Barn Owls. I was imagin-
      ing an owl peeking out
      but of course, no such

      The site is a paradise for
      local birders (325
      species have been
      recorded); shore birds
      like egrets, ibis, and
      herons as well as song
      birds find shelter here.

      I was mostly having fun
      with the wild flowers.
      Although I expected Rosa rugosa, seen in both flower and fruit stages in late June, butterfly weed, honeysuckle, milkweed,this is a managed park. Yuccas spike the landscape; many are newly planted. Buddlia and coreopsis attract butterflies. Another unexpected plant was the prickly Pear Cactus. I don't normally think of it as a New York City wildflower. I learned it grows wild from MA to FL and north to MN, but I never imagined cactus juxtaposed with JFK.
      To learn more, get directions, and a schedule of guided walks and nature programs visit: the National Parks site. Take your Deep Woods Off when you visit.

      Friday, October 31, 2008

      Gantry Plaza State Park

      How many of you have been to Gantry Plaza State Park?
      How many of you know where Gantry Plaza State Park is?

      I've lived in NYC for 23 years (should I be admitting that?) and if it hadn't been for Rick Darke (from the hinterlands of Pennsylvania) I wouldn't know there was a 4 acre park on the Queens waterfront, with spectacular views of Manhattan and great sweeps of native grasses set against 2 monolithic Long Island Railroad gantries.

      There's something about the juxtaposition of industrial, metal structures with the water of the east river and bright red viburnum berries that I find irresistible. It's alive and not alive. It's rivets and maple samaras. It's big city skyline surrounded by lawn.

      In summer the park's four piers offer concerts and an amazing view of the 4th of July fireworks. There are basketball courts, handball courts and a dedicated fish cleaning table for city anglers. Off season you may have the park to yourself and that's how I like it best. Where else in the five boroughs can you listen to the soughing of ornamental grasses and the slap of the east river against a pier?

      Take the 7 train (either the first or last stop in Queens, depending on where you're coming from!). Get off at Vernon-Jackson Avenue and walk down 48th Avenue to the river. The park is in front of the City Lights Building. Clear an afternoon and bring a picnic, a book, a football, a friend...whatever suits your fancy.

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