On Sunday, I found myself wind-battered and facing strange shoreline contraptions on the way to Staten Island, where the New York City Parks department was offering their annual preview of Freshkills Park, described somewhat ponderously by the New York Times as the “planet’s greatest act of ecological atonement.”
I was looking forward to seeing the park (and Staten Island), but mostly I was thrilled at the thought of traveling by water through that strange zone of marsh and industry beneath the Bayonne Bridge that often occupies my imagination. Although I didn’t see the wall cloud of myth and legend, I was captivated by the way that the smokestacks and sky created a seamless horizon.
There were layers upon layers of bridges, and the banks that were seemingly most untouched by human contact all contained signs that warned of petroleum pipelines running beneath the surface.
In the park itself, I stood on what used to be the largest man-made structure in the world, taller than the Statue of Liberty. It looked like that most rare of native eco-systems, the prairie, but beneath the surface is a network that will carry methane to the island’s residents.
It wasn’t hard to imagine that I was somewhere far from New York, and for a brief moment outside of time itself, or before the city itself was built. But, of course, the traces of the past will never truly disappear until they fall down.