Don't get me started
To call the North Shore Esplanade a greenspace is to dishonor that term.
At its northwestern end, between Nicholas Street and St. Peters Place, the North Shore Esplanade is little more than a long sitting area punctuated by london plane trees where hardly anyone ever sits.
Why would anyone bother--except those who have nowhere else to sleep?
The elegantly named esplanade's magnificent harbor views are obscured by stands of volunteer maple, polonia, and ailanthus, which are themselves being choked by the unchecked growth of porcelain-berry vines.
Though the strip is swept and its garbage cans emptied regularly, it is a derelict, deteriorating piece of waterfront real estate whose configuration assures that it will remain what it has been since my wife and I moved here in 1977: an otherwise unused route to and from the ferry--or to and from a parking space. And it's not hard to understand why.
NEAR ST. PETERS PLACE
There's nothing to do, nothing to see, and seemingly no official interest in moving beyond the dreary status quo. Why bother shoring up collapsed seating no one will ever sit on anyway, right? Just block it off with sawhorses and yellow tape for an 'indefinite' period.
NEAR NICHOLAS STREET
I do not exaggerate when I tell you that this section of collapsed sidewalk has been in this condition for a decade at least. The sidewalk widens at Nicholas Street, so pedestrians and joggers just go around it. And since the esplanade lacks a vocal constituency, the city's Parks and Recreation Department has little reason to devote funds to fix it.
(Photo above by Rachel Icolari)
BETWEEN NICHOLAS STREET
AND STUYVESANT PLACE
The deteriorated state of the esplanade's beautiful iron railings is another example of Parks and Recreation's minimal investment in upkeep. The department obviously is more concerned with avoiding lawsuits (those hideous highway buffers shown below) than with maintaining the original ironwork. Like Snug Harbor's, these iron railings can last indefinitely, given the proper maintenance (and replacement, where appropriate, with ironwork of the same design and density).
(Photo above and photo above, right, by Rachel Icolari)
DON'T 'REFURBISH' IT--
RECONFIGURE IT FOR ACTIVE USE
On the esplanade, at about the halfway point between Nicholas Street and St. Peters Place, stands a concrete flagpole dedicated to local soldiers whose lives were lost in World War II, which is probably when the esplanade was designed and installed.
In terms of park design and use, it was the era of 'Keep Off the Grass' signs and genteel after-dinner strolls. That era is not coming back. So it's not just a matter of painting the benches once again and installing better lighting.
The model made for after-dinner strolling was retired long ago--as evidenced in the 1970s design of the nearby Lia Park, which includes sitting areas but also has sprinklers, swings, and provisions for active play. As anyone who lives near it can tell you, Lia Park a pretty popular place.
FRIENDS OF THE NORTH SHORE ESPLANADE?
I don't presume to know what mix of seating, play, performance, athletic facilities and other types of offerings might draw users to what amounts to an abandoned park. But especially now, with Cromwell Center shut down yet again, the community's lack of recreational space has become more severe. And it will only continue, as our area draws more young families to its affordable apartments, houses, condos and co-ops, if we don't demand additional park and recreational resources to accommodate them.
We need to begin the process of reclaiming this bit of St. George parkland now. Friends of the North Shore Esplanade, anyone?
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