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Riverside Park South, Memorial Day weekend 2010 - 03 | by Ed Yourdon
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Riverside Park South, Memorial Day weekend 2010 - 03

Note: this photo was published in an undated (Jun 2010) EveryBlock NYC Zipcode blog, with the title 10023 ('cause that's the zipcode that covers this particular section of New York City).


It was also published in an Aug 1, 2011 blog titled "Freight And Air Cargo Transport."




I love to stroll along Riverside Park, on the western edge of Manhattan by the Hudson River, during almost any season of the year (and you can see the photographic results in this Flickr collection). However, I've never been south of 70th Street nor north of 125th Street on these strolls -- even though I know the park extends all the way up to the George Washington Bridge, a couple miles further north.


Actually, it had not been possible to walk the entire distance between 70th and 125th, at least not right along the river, because there was a section between 82nd and 96th Street that had once been a very narrow, rough, rutted footpath between the river and the ever-busy West Side Highway ... until the New York Parks Department decided to close it off and build a properly paved, somewhat wider, pathway for bicyclists, skaters, joggers, and people just out strolling along, like me. Of course, it took the Parks Department a couple years longer than originally planned, and after a while, nobody paid any attention to the signs indicating that they were definitely going to be finished this spring ... no, this summer ... no, well, maybe this fall.


But then, all of a sudden, they did finish ... and word circulated around the Upper West Side that it would be officially opened, thus connecting "Riverside Park South" with "Riverside Park North," sometime just before Memorial Day weekend. So we decided to check it out, starting with a nice lunch at an outdoor cafe at the base of the pier that extends out into the Hudson River at 70th Street.


After lunch, I was planning to walk north and check out the new pathway ... but first, there was an old abandoned freight elevator at the edge of the water, which I decided I should photograph. It was just to the south of the 70th-Street cafe, and after taking the photos, I looked a little further south, and saw that there was a broad pathway, carefully mowed grass, and lots of people strolling ... where? further south!


So I followed the path, and found that it expanded into a complex web of sidewalks, mini-gardens, mini-piers jutting out into the river, wooden-slat chairs, picnic benches, and boardwalks leading through wild grass and flowers that had been carefully planted. All of this continued, block after block after block, down below the elevated West Side Highway, all the way down to 59th Street. And it turns out that that is where "Riverside Park South" actually starts.


So that's where most of the photos in this set were actually taken. There are some strange sights along the way, because the whole area used to be occupied by working piers that loaded and unloaded ships filled with freight and cargo, on and off railroads that snaked their way along the west side of Manhattan. But as ship-borne cargo was gradually replaced by truck, rail, and air cargo, the piers and docks gradually fell into disuse; and when the Penn Central Railroad went bankrupt, they really fell into disuse.


It turns out that there was a massive fire along this area back in June of 1971 (a time when I lived in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn, and was more-or-less oblivious to what was going on in Manhattan), and the fire was so hot that it melted and warped the steel girders of many of the docks, cranes, and loading structures. When the whole area was renovated recently (apparently part of a required "civic contribution" by Donald Trump when he acquired the rights to build condos and apartment buildings along the stretch of the far West Side of Manhattan, from 72nd Street to the mid-60s), the city planners initially intended to remove all of the old twisted metal and rotting wooden piers. But local civic groups prevailed upon the city to leave some of it intact, as a reminder of what was there before... I could go on with more details, but you can check it out for yourself here on Wikipedia.


Anyway, I eventually strolled back to my starting point at 70th Street, and then up to 82nd Street, and finally along the newly-opened pathway connecting the southern stretch of park with the northern section that starts at 96th Street. Alas, it turned out to be utterly boring: absolutely straight, with a northbound bike lane, a southbound bike lane, a thick garish yellow line dividing the two, and a narrow 3-foot path by the railing for pedestrians to creep along. No benches, no tables, no mini-piers jutting out into the river; no curves, no artistic flair, no flowers, no grass, no nothing. You can see for yourself in the final two or three photos in this set ...


But all in all, it was a pleasant afternoon. One of these days, I'll go back down to Riverside Park South around sunset, and see if I can get some good pictures of the sun disappearing into the smoggy haze of New Jersey, across the water...

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Taken on May 30, 2010