Thursday, August 11, 2005

Sweltering on an Island in the Sound

It was hot on Davids Island today. I think it was as hot as I’ve ever been. The sun didn’t shine, it glared and baked. It reflected off the sand and the bits of mussel shell that the tide had pushed into a berm along the beach and off the fragments of coal left from when the island was an Army base. The sumac and poison ivy and bittersweet were thick as rainforest. I was there from 11:15 until 1:30 and once I felt a breeze. It blew through for five or six seconds.

This was only my second visit to Davids Island - everybody’s been there more often than I have. My first visit was in the spring on 1986, I think. After that I spent about five years reporting critically about a plan by the city of New Rochelle and a developer to build 2,000 condos there, and since the city owned the island and my critical reporting was (I’m happy to say) incessant, no one ever invited me out there again. But today was a ceremonial groundbreaking for what eventually will be a park, and I was on the invitation list.

About 60 people were there in all, ferried out from the old Fort Slocum dock, near Glen Island, on a New Rochelle police boat that took only 15 people at a time. Aside from the politicians (particularly Nita Lowey, who secured the federal money that occasioned the groundbreaking), here’s who was there: Bob Funicello, Marlene Kolbert, and Phyllis Wittner, all long-time proponents of putting a park on Davids Island; Robin Kriesberg of Save the Sound, Adrienne Esposito of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Sean Mahar of Audubon New York, Jennifer Cox of RPA, Carolyn Cunningham, Jim Nordgren and Adiel Gavish, all of Federated Conservationists of Westchester; Edna Sussman, who used to be with FCWC; Barbara Davis, New Rochelle’s city historian; some old colleagues and friends from the newspaper business (Ken Valenti, Steve Schmidt, Suzanne DeChillo); broadcasting crews from channel 12 and channel 4; a handful of young, earnest Congressional aides; people from the Army Corps of Engineers, dressed in black suits and military uniforms (the Army Corps had installed a temporary dock for the occasion, which shows what happens at the federal level when Nita Lowey’s office calls).

While we were waiting for the police-boat ferry to bring everyone back and
forth, we walked around a bit and saw an osprey nest. We stopped to look at a huge cannon called a Rodman gun, which remains on the island only because it weighs about a million pounds and can’t be carted away. What looked like a ’57 Chevy sat oxidizing in an old building. The buildings themselves were like ruins that you come across in th jungle. But it was hard to go too far through the jungle because of the vines, and in any case it was too hot, so for the most part we all stood together in what little shade we could find and waited.

The speeches were quick and for the most part inaudible. Photographers gathered around for photos. The dignitaries took up gold-painted shovels and ceremonially broke the ground. Women in sandals and capris tried to avoid standing in poison ivy.

When the police-boat ferry came to take us back, there was an obvious
unspoken protocol: to avoid heatstroke, older people and people in business suits first. I got on the next to last boat, happy to leave what today was godforsaken, but looking forward to coming back in five 5 years or 10 years to a park in the middle of Long Island Sound where everyone is welcome, no matter what the weather.

Here are two news accounts of the event: The Journal News and The New York Times.


Blogger sandy said...

That's excellent news. Was that was an old military base? Is it going to be a day park, or mixed with primative camping, public ferry boat or what? This is going to be public, right?

8:39 PM  
Blogger Tom Andersen said...

Not much has been decided yet. Access will be by ferry (a proposal for a bridge is what killed an earlier development plan), and the park with have an environmental-Long Island Sound focus, according to the county executive. But it's still years in the future.

12:40 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

eXTReMe Tracker