In accordance with the Land Acquisition Program New York City has acquired over 4200 acres of land for watershed protection. The 40 + properties are located in Delaware, Putnam, Greene, Ulster, Schoharie and Westchester counties and were purchased for $16 million. Land acquisition programs are seen as the most effective way of securing healthy watersheds and securing a safe source for drinking water. New York City’s program has been one of the most comprehensive and successful in the world. Due to its success New York is one of only 5 large cities in the country not required to filter its water, the others being Boston, Portland, San Francisco and Seattle. New York city has promised $541 million to purchase land to protect the unfiltered drinking water used across New York City. Most of the acquired land will be opened to public access for hiking and fishing, as well as interested that help local businesses. The city pays market value to willing sellers for the land it acquires.

Solar1

December 19, 2010

Located on a brownfield site along the east river, Solar1 was developed as an environmental learning center in Stuyvesant Cove Park. The building itself is solar-powered and used as a place to educate students and residents from New York to learn about the principles of energy conservation in the urban environment and their neighborhoods. Solar1 (the nonproft organization not the building of the same name) plans to create Solar 2 which will be a “Green Energy Arts and Education Center”. The building itself will be a Platinum LEED certified “net-zero” building. Some events they host are movie screenings during the summer (the building itself is powered by solar panels as is all of the equipment used for the screenings), renewable energy education program, estuary and native plant course designed around Stuyvesant park, etc. the programs and events the organization offers promote environmental education and civic engagement.

Though remembered as America’s first leading landscape painter, Thomas Cole was an immigrant born in Lancashire, England in 1801. After coming to America at age 17 he traveled around the east coast with his family. After first learning oil-based painting with a portrait artist Cole began to establish a manner of meticulously detailed drawings that would become the mode for his future landscape works. After a trip to New York Cole released his first collection of illustrations he sketched on a trip up the Hudson River in the summer o 1825. His works garnered him attention from important patrons in New York and by 1829 when he left to continue his studies he was a founding member of the National Academy of Design. When he returned to New York in 1833 he was commissioned to create he work The Course of Empire (1836) which was an allegory depicting the progression of a society. After that his work focused mainly on the “realistic view” as that’s where he found most of his success and where most public interest was at the time. Many years later after finding his own success and defining a new, uniquely American style, Cole took in Frederic E. Church as a pupil, Church would then go on to be the leading painter in the second generation of the Hudson River school style.

The Patroons

December 19, 2010

In 1629 the Dutch colony in New York established a system much resembling feudalism. A patroon was the name for a landowner who had manorial rights over a large plot of land. With the creation of the Charter of Freedom and Exemptions permission was granted to these individuals to “choose and take possession of as much land as they could properly cultivate and hold in full ownership.” A true patroon was one who obtained fifty adults within a period of four years. This allowed him to have territory extending sixteen miles on one side or eight miles on both sides of a river.

A patroon could create civil and criminal courts, and could appoint local officials. The tenants of these estates would be relieved from paying taxes for 10 year but in return had to pay the patron in money, services, or goods. The most successful of the patrons was Kiliaen van Rensselaer whose manor Rensselaerwyck covered the New York State counties of Albany, Rensselaer and part of Columbia.

The Collect Pond

October 12, 2010

Collect Pond is one of the lost parts of the historic geography of the island of Manhattan. Originally in the 17th and 18th centuries the pond was used as a picnicking location and a spot for ice skating locals. However, by the 19th century industry (mostly tanneries) had transformed the site from a fresh water source into a sewer like dumping ground. To deal with the site the city ordered the adjacent hill (Bunker Hill) to be used to fill the pond. Before the pond could be filled however it had to be drained of the disease ridden water. In order to do this the city had to make a canal for the drainage thus the passage that would become Canal Street was created. After the pond had been filled many townhouses went up in what was at the time a desirable new location known as Paradise Square. However soon after the filling of the pond it became aparent that the land was swampy and in fact the surroiunding buildings began to sink into the still diseased ground. The area then became a slum and with it rose Five Points, the breeding ground for 19th century gangs in New York City. On top of being a hub for most of the crime in New York Five Points was also the home to many cholera outbreaks throughout the century. Conditions would change however, after the 1890 publication of Jacob Riis’ How the Other Half Lives, in which he accounts the deplorable conditions of life in the slums. In 1960 the area was rebuilt to house the major courts in the city. In the short history of the area it went from beautiful picnic ground, to complete slum and settled on hub for the city court system, the history of the area is as dynamic as the geographical history of the island itself.

Sinking Barge in Newtown Creek

On our field trip to Newtown Creek I witnessed a few old, rusting barges sitting in the creek seemingly undisturbed by any attempts to get rid of them. With a little bit of research I found out a particular barge spilling out Styrofoam into the creek had been noticed by someone else; The DEC. In early 2008 the DEC issued a violation to Pile Foundation Construction Inc. for abandoning two barges in Jamaica Bay’s Barbadoes Basin. A few years earlier a separate Pile company barge sank in the Hudson by 57th st. and according to reports began “leaking an oily substance into the river” (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/05/nyregion/05barges.html). And as it turns out the barge sitting in Newtown creek is yet another Pile barge. The barges have been deemed by many to be both a hazard for navigation and a severe threat to the sensitive harbor ecosystems, most notably the benthic habitat. The owner of the company claimed their barges “cannot sink” normally however he blamed the sinking barges in Jamaica Bay on children cutting holes in the boats Styrofoam.

The Pile foundation was not charged for the barge leaking oil into the Hudson however it was fined $10,000 a day until the removal of the barges in Jamaica Bay.  The reports I found were from early 2008 and as of our trip into Newtown Creek the Pile barge is still sitting in the same spot leaking Styrofoam and slowly collapsing into the basin of the creek. No other more recent information was available on the state of the barges removal. However, city councilmen are working to make the labeling of barges mandatory in order to more clearly identify the companies responsible for abandoning them.