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

      Showing posts with label waterfront. Show all posts
      Showing posts with label waterfront. Show all posts

      Thursday, April 28, 2011


      Virginia bluebells, native dogwood, redbud in bloom, a river running in the background,
      a stand of fern: wouldn't you just know that you're standing at Dykeman St. and Harlem River Drive, in that serene oasis of plants and wildlife, Swindler Cove Park?
      Wander by the spread of Solomon seal, then sit yourself down to contemplate the white bleeding hearts or walk a few hundred feet to the edge of the Harlem River and watch the activity surrounding the boat house. It was completed in 2004 and floated into place. What looks serene and bucolic now was until recently an illegal dumping site, dark and dangerous until rescued by the heroic New York Restoration project founded by Bette Midler. P.S.5 adjoins this site, and part of the park plan was to incorporate a children's garden into Swindler Cove Park. Enter through arches of grape vines, admire raised beds with vegetables, an herb garden and strawberry patch and a cold frame where seedlings are being hardened off before planting.
      Students from the school and from classes all over the city come to learn whence cometh their food, and to taste produce grown here.
      Visit a fresh water pond, a restored wetlands, ornamental gardens. I admired containers ready for a planting of annuals, an idea ripe for home gardeners. This place not only restores the woodlands, shoreline and and wetlands, but the soul as well.
      To learn more: directions, programs and visiting click here.

      Saturday, July 10, 2010


      So it wasn't an ocean voyage; it was one free ferry ride from the tip of Manhattan across New York Harbor to Governors Island. Embarking from the historic Battery Maritime Building (above), we sailed under the helicopters, next to the mammoth Staten Island Ferry and within sight of both the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges. (Free ferries also from Pier 6, Brooklyn Bridge Park, and by Water Taxi for a fee.) A federal military installation since the Revolutionary War, in 2001 half of Governors Island was designated a National Historic Site and in 2003 the other half turned over to NYC for parkland, recreation, and the arts.

      Below, newly restored Commanding Officers Quarters built in 1843, open to the public, now used for exhibits and events. My ostensible reason for going was to visit the organic farm established by Added Value, a Brooklyn non-profit supporting urban agriculture, but we first stopped to admire the view of steamy lower Manhattan from the shade of the Island.At Picnic Point, a lone farmer works 40 hours a week to tend both flower and vegetable crops in raised beds with drip irrigation. Island-made compost for the farm is supplied by the Earth Matter Compost Learning Center directly across the road. The farmer hopes to have produce available for sale at a farm stand later in the summer, but some plants like the squash and celery here were still waiting to go in on July 2. Behind the crops, overlooking the harbor are half units of shipping containers, each open on two sides, housing a picnic table and benches for family groups. When you double click to enlarge the image below, note that some clever designer has added large wheels to one end of each bench, to enable visitors to move and park them in the best positions.Ride a rental bike (one hour free on Fridays), play free miniature golf with each hole designed by a different artist, hear a free concert on some summer weekends, walk around the island and capture your favorite view of a favorite lady (also free), take a free tram ride for a guided tour with unlimited on-off privileges, fly a kite, enter one of the historic buildings and see the work of artists in residence, learn about the military history and visit a fort, walk out on a pier into the East River, and if you get too exhausted from all of this playing, refresh yourself with some of the best homemade cart food you'll find in the city. Carts are scattered all over the 110 acres of public open space. Here's what Fauzia had to offer the day we were there.
      You may not find any mango-pineapple lemonade left because Gary H. drank three. I saw him.

      Learn more.

      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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