Nature-inspired sculptures now on display at Madison Square Park

This sculpture of a woman is now on display as part of Arlene Shechet’s installation, “Full Steam Ahead.” (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Madison Square Park Conservancy has debuted a series of nature-inspired sculptures as the latest public art installation to go up at the park. The work opened to the public on Tuesday to torrential downpours throughout the morning and afternoon but the rain lightened to a drizzle in time for the installation’s opening reception that evening.

Sculptor Arlene Shechet created 11 different pieces that make up “Full Steam Ahead,” designed as an outdoor room intended to be interactive. Shechet is primarily known for her work in ceramic but the pieces in this exhibition are made from cast iron, wood, steel and porcelain.

Shechet refers to the exhibition as a “manufactured version of nature” and the installation is functional as well as a work of art, with a number of the pieces functioning as seating. Shechet said that the installation was initially inspired by memories of the living room in her grandparents’ apartment.

The pieces, located along the pathways and perimeter of the park’s reflecting pool, are human-scale sculptures that create a physical presence for visitors, and Shechet used forms suggestive of the nature around the park, such as twigs, tree trunks and other plants. Other sculptures around the pool are reminiscent of various fauna, some of which could be found at the park, such as a feather from a bird, although another, part of a lion’s head and paw, is less common in the middle of Manhattan.

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Garbage trucks to soon be parked on Mount Carmel Pl.

Mount Carmel Place between East 26th and 27th Streets (Photo via Google Maps)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Department of Sanitation has warned Kips Bay residents that the agency will be parking up to seven garbage trucks adjacent to Bellevue South Park starting next Monday.

Representatives for the agency informed members of Community Board 6’s transportation committee about the trucks’ arrival at a meeting on Tuesday, saying that the change is necessary because DSNY will soon be evicted from the current sanitation garage at 606 West 30th Street.

Between four and six trucks will be parked on Mount Carmel Place between East 26th and 27th Streets on the east side of the park. DSNY community affairs officer Iggy Terranova said that the trucks will leave their spots on Mount Carmel Place by 6 a.m. to pick up trash and return around 2 p.m.

Residents and community board members at the meeting were worried about whether or not the trucks would be parked in the neighborhood with a full load, and Terranova said that the only time full trucks will park in those spaces is if workers don’t have time to dump them during the morning shift. If this happens, the trucks will then be taken out for the 4 p.m. to 12 a.m. shift and dumped then. Trucks will then be parked on Mount Carmel from midnight to 6 a.m.

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LES ferry makes maiden voyage

ferry arrives at Stuy Cove2

The Ocean Queen Rock Star, part of the fleet of NYC Ferry’s Lower East Side route, arrives at Stuyvesant Cove at 6:45 a.m. on Wednesday. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

Despite temperatures climbing high enough to warrant an official heat advisory from the city, cool winds prevailed along the East River on Wednesday for those aboard the new ferries along the Lower East Side route that launched that morning. The ferry that made the maiden voyage took off from Long Island City at around 6:30, arriving at Stuyvesant Cove at exactly 6:45 a.m. as the sun rose, carrying a mix of Stuyvesant Town residents and reporters.

The ferry, named the Ocean Queen Rock Star, then proceeded — at around 26 miles per hour — to downtown landing Corlears Hook, named, like Stuyvesant Cove, after a park on the waterfront. There, Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Member Keith Powers cheered the new route, which made its debut months ahead of the dreaded L train shutdown.

De Blasio mentioned that the city has been getting many requests from New Yorkers who want a ferry stop in their neighborhoods and said that by the end of the year, decisions will be made on where else they would go. As of Wednesday, there were already six active ferry routes in the city, all operated by Hornblower. According to the mayor, there have also already been six million riders so far on NYC Ferry.

“We know how crowded the subways are. We know the streets are congested,” he said. “We know we need new ways to get around the city. We will not be the city we were meant to be if we don’t have better options.”

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Bellevue South Park users ask for ADA-compliant dog run

Christopher Crowley, landscape architect for Parks, pictured with Kips Bay residents involved in planning for the temporary dog run (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

At a meeting aimed at getting community feedback, Kips Bay residents told city officials what they want in a redesign of Bellevue South Park is a permanent, fully accessible dog run. They also want to separate the play equipment from where adults congregate.

The Parks Department’s meeting was held last Thursday, when the landscape architect for the city agency, Christopher Crowley, told neighbors this is the first step in the process for the project.

“We don’t have a concept plan in mind,” Crowley said. “That’s what this meeting is for, to find out what the community wants in this park.”

Steve Simon, the chief of staff for the Manhattan Borough Commissioner at the Parks Department, said that the input from the meeting will help the agency create a preliminary plan that will be presented to Community Board 6 in the fall.

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The pretty flower that’s strangling Stuyvesant Cove Park

July19 Bindweed flower

Growth of the vine-sprouting weed has exploded in the warm weather. (Photos by Emily Curtis-Murphy)

By Sabina Mollot

Though the blooming of a large, stinky flower at the New York Botanical Garden has been getting all the attention lately, there’s another plant in this city that’s starting to sound even more sinister than the aforementioned corpse flower.

A white-petaled menace that grows on vines has been described by the gardeners at Stuyvesant Cove Park as “an invader from far-off lands and nothing short of pernicious.”

That would be the field bindweed (also known as Convolvulus arvensis), a trumpet-shaped flower that looks very similar to a morning glory and has been growing like what it actually is — a weed – in green spaces across New York City. Along with parks and gardens, the hardy plant has also been sprouting up on traffic medians and vacant lots.

Environmental education center Solar One, which is located at Stuyvesant Cove Park’s north end, sent neighbors an email about the bindweed on Monday, while also making a plea for help in keeping its beastly growth at bay.

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Stuyvesant Park Neighborhood Association celebrating 50th anniversary

Stuyvesant Square Park these days is sitting pretty, in no small part due to the work of the Stuyvesant Park Neighborhood Association. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

When the Stuyvesant Park Neighborhood Association was formed half a century ago, it began as many civic organizations do — as a response to a perceived threat to the community that the residents were willing to fight. In this case, the interloper was Beth Israel, which was expanding its footprint at the time, buying up brownstones in the Stuyvesant Square neighborhood to raze and turn into larger buildings.

Rosalee Isaly, the president of the Stuyvesant Park Neighborhood Association, who’s been involved in the group’s efforts since 1970, said neighbors were concerned about the expansion impacting their quality of life, especially when the hospital received a federal grant to turn an empty lot at the corner of Second Avenue and 17th Street to build a 40-story building to house its staff. The group, initially just three couples (including husbands who worked as attorneys), fought this tooth and nail.

Eventually that street corner became home to the significantly smaller Hospital for Joint Diseases, and Beth Israel built the 24-story Gilman Hall on First Avenue across from Stuyvesant Town to house its residents. (Gilman has since been emptied and sold to a California-based developer as part of the hospital’s downsizing plan.)

As for the three couples from Stuyvesant Square who made up the founding members of the SPNA, they were John and Mary Tommaney, Adrian and Marisa Zorgniotti and James and Carvel Moore. Isaly, who now owns and manages a couple of local properties and is also an artist, joined the SPNA upon moving to the neighborhood when she was a newlywed. She’s lived there since then with the exception of a few years in the 1970s when she and her family lived in Paris.

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ST residents concerned about trees and organized play at Playground 1

Rendering provided by StuyTown Property Services shows how the playground will look once renovated.

By Susan Steinberg
President of the ST-PCV Tenants Association

About 35 Stuyvesant Town tenants attended a town hall on Monday night focusing on the reimagined Playground 1. Hosted by Rick Hayduk, general manager of StuyTown Property Services, assisted by Wes Richards, chief landscape designer and Kevin Wyatt, master arborist, the event took place at the community center.

Hayduk reviewed the need for improvements, including unsafe asphalt requiring resurfacing, parapet walls that were collapsing and trees in various states of decay.  Construction work has already begun on rebuilding the parapets, to the chagrin of the residents living around the playground, well represented at the meeting, who are trying to cope with the drilling. The worst of the noise is expected to be over in two weeks. When completed, the playground will consist of two major areas, an AstroTurf section (about one third of the total area) and a resurfaced asphalt area (two thirds) allowing for roller hockey and T-ball. A net will separate the two areas. The decaying trees will be replaced by Princeton Elms 22 feet high. These grow 4-6.5 feet a year and produce food for squirrels. The design showed 28 benches. The playground is envisioned as serving children ages 12 and under.

Several residents challenged the project. They said playground as it existed was one playground where there was no “theme,” no organized play, no schedules and where residents could site and enjoy quiet time. One resident said she had specifically moved to a building overlooking that playground because it was quiet.

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Parade shines light on environment

Costumed dancers from the Artichoke dance company perform as part of the procession that made 20 stops along the East Village and Lower East Side. (Photos by Kristin Reimer for Earth Celebrations’ Ecological City-Procession for Climate Solutions)

By Sabina Mollot

On Saturday, hundreds of costumed revelers walked, marched and danced their way through the East Village and the Lower East Side for a day-long event aimed at celebrating local green spaces, the East River and sustainability efforts.

The event was organized by Lower East Sider, artist and activist Felicia Young, who has a long history of similar events aimed at (successfully) saving community gardens, through her organization Earth Celebrations. Participants in the event, which was modeled after pageants in India, where hundreds of celebrants from multiple communities take part, made 20 stops throughout the neighborhood.

A few included Campos Garden on East 12th Street between Avenues B and C, El Sol Brilliante Garden an avenue to the west, the Earth School on East 6th Street and by the day’s end, East River Park for oyster planting and a river cleansing dance.

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Residents grieve for downed trees

Tree stumps line the south end of the playground on Friday. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

SPS says removals were for resident safety

By Sabina Mollot

Though it did come with warning, a number of Stuyvesant Town residents were nonetheless unprepared for the moment when trees that were nearly as old and as tall as nearby buildings began getting sawed down and carted away.

The old oaks’ removal was explained by management in an email on Friday (and in a prior email blast) as being necessary due to disease and decay. Additionally, StuyTown Property Services CEO Rick Hayduk added in the Friday email to tenants, they’d be replaced in June by Princeton elms and the remains of the oaks would be mulched. Still, for some residents whose windows overlook Playground 1, the removal of the 18 mature trees around it hit home as hard as the loss of an old friend.

“As I speak I hear a chainsaw cutting down a 70-year-old tree,” Stuart Strong, a resident of 330 First Avenue told Town & Village on Friday. Strong, who was horrified, added, “They’re sturdy as anything. We’re looking at stumps that used to be oak trees. I don’t see any decay. They provide environment and enjoyment.”

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City holding dog run town halls

The series of events are for dog owners with questions or concerns about their local dog runs. (Pictured) Dogs and an owner at the Bellevue South Park Dog Run (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Sabina Mollot

Got a question or concern about Fido’s dog run? The New York City Parks Department is holding a series of four dog run town halls with the next one scheduled in Manhattan on April 14 from 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

The series, according to a spokesperson for the department Meghan Lalor, was inspired by similar public dog forums the department held in 2007 while finalizing an off-leash policy as well as a forum in 2010 when Assistant Commissioner Michael Dockett was named the agency’s “dog czar.”

Now, the department is “refreshing” the concept with the hopes of getting dog owners more involved in their local runs and to inform them about available resources. The first in the series on dog runs took place in Queens last weekend without about 40 people in attendance. The Manhattan venue will be the Tony Dapolito Recreation Center at 3 Clarkson Street, and dog owners should note that the event is for humans only.

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City breaks ground on new entrance at Madison Square Park monument

A groundbreaking ceremony for the new park entrance was held last Thursday at the Eternal Light monument. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Madison Square Park Conservancy officially broke ground at the Eternal Light Memorial Flagstaff on the renovation project to create an entrance by the monument last Thursday. The project, the budget for which is $2 million, is expected to be completed in time for the centenary of Armistice Day, marking the end of World War I, on November 11.

The renovations are part of Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver’s “Parks Without Borders” initiative intended to open up park edges and create inviting entrances into city parks. The plan is also part of Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero program and the Department of Transportation’s ongoing effort to enhance safety around parks and public plazas. The adjustments at the monument are meant to enhance pedestrian circulation and safety at the intersection of Broadway and Fifth Avenue by directly aligning the new entrance with the 24th Street crosswalk. The project will also give the memorial increased prominence in the park in honor of the veteran community.

The renovations will include demolishing the pavers and fencing around the memorial’s base and constructing a new plaza, as well as installing new gardens, fencing and benches around the plaza. The pavers and electrical infrastructure around the southern end of the park will be replaced and upgraded as part of the renovations.

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Syrian artist will combine plants with sculpture at park installation

A rendering depicts one of the sculptural works by Diana Al-Hadid that will appear at Madison Square Park in May. (Rendering courtesy of Justin Gallagher)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

This spring, visitors to Madison Square Park can expect to find a series of six new sculptures from Syrian-born American artist Diana Al-Hadid, which will be the first installation at the park that combines sculpture with plant materials.

The Madison Square Park Conservancy announced that the outdoor exhibition, “Delirious Matter,” will appear on the park’s Oval Lawn in May. This is the first major public art project for the artist, whose works of female figures will appear to melt into their surroundings.

“I am thrilled to have my first large-scale public project on the lawns and in the reflecting pool of Madison Square Park,” Al-Hadid said. “This is the first time my work will be made and seen at this scale. It’s my largest project by far and my largest audience.”

Two walls on the Oval Lawn will be combined with rows of hedges to form a room and three reclining female figures will sit on heavy bases displayed on the surrounding lawns, separately titled within the installation as “Synonym.” There will also be a site-specific sculptural bust of a female figure on top a fragmented mountain in the park’s reflecting pool and is titled “Gradiva.”

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Historic tree removed from park after being deemed hazardous

“Old Stumpy” at Madison Square Park, which has actually been around longer than the park has, was considered by arborists to be a falling hazard. (Photo courtesy of the Madison Square Park Conservancy)

By Sabina Mollot

A nearly 300-year-old tree at Madison Square Park that had been popular with visitors has finally faced the chopping block.

It had technically already been dead for years but was kept carefully preserved until recently being deemed a falling hazard.

“We loved that tree but because of pedestrian safety we had to bring it down,” Eric Cova, a spokesperson for the Madison Square Park Conservancy, told Town & Village. “The arborists told us the tree was hollow and had become a danger.”

The English elm had been known as “Old Stumpy” since it was really just the remnants of a tree, a trunk with a few limb stubs remaining.

The relic’s heart-wrenching removal occurred on Valentine’s Day after the conservancy got the nod from the Parks Department.

Cova said some planters will be put in the tree’s place in about 4-6 weeks. In the meantime, the now smoothed-over, empty spot is surrounded by a barrier.

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Solar 2 design released

This rendering, by Bjark Ingels Group (BIG), shows how the replacement building for Solar One will look, complete with a kayak launch accessible at Stuyvesant Cove Park.

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Project architects have released renderings for Solar One’s new building that will be replacing the environmental organization’s original structure along the East River across from Peter Cooper Village within the next two years. The Economic Development Corporation, the city agency overseeing the project, presented the plan to Community Board 6’s land use and waterfront committee on January 22.

Although the project has been referred to as “Solar 2,” the new building will fully replace the organization’s original structure and the renderings show a “Solar One” sign on the building’s western face. According to the presentation, construction on Solar 2 is expected to be completed before the start of 2019 and construction on the additional flood protection in Stuyvesant Cove Park, which is part of the East Side Coastal Resiliency (ESCR) project, won’t begin until 2021 or 2022. The ESCR project includes a combination of berms and flood walls to protect the nearby neighborhoods from a possible flood event, and since Solar One’s building is expected to be operational before construction begins for the ESCR, that flood protection will be built around the new structure.

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Winter has arrived, but gardens will still be blooming at local parks

Some plants can withstand bone-chilling temperatures, like hellebore flowers that have been planted at Madison Square Park. (Pictured) Hellebores that bloomed last winter (Photo by Stephanie Lucas)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Despite the deep freeze that has taken over the city for the last week, local parks are still expecting flowers to be blooming during the winter months. The resident plant experts for both Stuyvesant Cove Park and Madison Square Park told Town & Village that the prolonged cold shouldn’t have a lasting impact on the vegetation in the parks and both spaces have plants that not only can withstand the chilly weather but can also bloom in the frigid temperatures.

Stephanie Lucas, director of horticulture and park operations for Madison Square Park, said that there are a number of winter-blooming plants in the park but one of the most plentiful is witch hazel, which, while more commonly-known to consumers as an astringent available at Walgreens, is also a native plant to the northeast.

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