In Spirit, that is. This past Saturday, I volunteered with a group of fellow Greater Astoria Historical Society members and urban dwellers to participate in one of the many Jane’s Walks taking place in NYC, to celebrate the 89th birthday of Jane Jacobs, organized by The Municipal Art Society of New York. I boarded the M60 bus on 77th Street here in Astoria and a short 15 minutes later I was over the Triboro bridge and in Harlem exiting at the SE corner of 125th Street and 2nd Avenue where our 3 1/2 hour walking tour began.
I arrived at the rendezvous point, at the foot of the Harlem River Lift Bridge, 45 minutes early but, luckily so did our tour leader Richard Melnick a NYC historian, GAHS board member and all around nice guy. It gave us a few minutes to introduce ourselves, chat and for me, to wander around and take a few grunge images while waiting for the rest of the group to arrive. My duties as a volunteer this day was as a “sweeper” meaning I remain in the rear of group and make sure no one wandered off or was left behind. This was great as it gave me ample time to take photos along the way.
I have to say we had a terrific group of people all with a keen interest in learning more about our city’s history through Richards highly informative and entertaining discourse, while walking through three boroughs (Manhattan, Bronx & Queens) and over and under three famous bridges. I was especially happy being with photographers who also delight in taking images of urban grit and grime and who didn’t think I was nuts when I got all excited about cracks in concrete or rust. They understood
It had poured the day before and we had grey skies and cool temperatures but, Mother Nature held back the rain this day and although a bit muddy in places the scenery was perfect for real urban photography. I was in my element and started immediately seeing the world around me in the abstract. Looming construction machinery like vividly colored dinosaurs, huge chunks of concrete torn up and thrown around, twisted metal bars tinted with rust, all of it urban free form sculpture. As we traversed over the Harlem River Lift, blue girders rose above like a huge Erector set against a flat grey sky and chain link fencing enclosed us in its steel webbing.
Walking along the banks of the Bronx Kill the flowing waters became a mirror reflecting back a surreal pastoral industrial scene surrounded by lush water plants, weeds and trees. We followed the path beneath the arches of the Hell Gate Bridge that seemed to go on into infinity. We marched on through more greenery until we were at the mouth of the pedestrian walkway of the Triboro Bridge on Randall’s Island; a monster chain link tunnel that curves like a vortex pulling you in and pushing you onward. The first glimpse of the magnificent blue steel towers of the Triboro Bridge take your breath away as does the view over the East River towards the arching span of the Hell Gate Bridge flanked by Astoria Park on one side and Randall’s Island on the other.
Our walking tour ended when we exited the bridge and stepped foot in good Old Astoria but, we continued the camaraderie in the beer gardens of the historic Bohemian Hall. Here we rested our tired feet and toasted each other and Jane with tall steins of cold beer.
Enjoy the walk.
(double-click on any image to be taken to a slide show.)