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Little Island: A poem with footnotes

BY MICHELE HERMAN |

Little Island, Little Island, how do I see thee?

rising so high from the grade of the sea,

each pile like a tulip[i], or giant golf tee.

 

Little Island, Little Island, how do I see thee?

Diller’s[ii] unsolicited present to me

or more the world’s showiest vanity spree[iii]?

 

Little Island, Little Island, how do I see thee?

pathways meandering so gracefully,

or more of Heatherwick[iv] grandiosity?

 

Little Island, Little Island, how do I see thee?

thumbing your nose at Marcy Benstock’s[v] decree:

put nothing in the Hudson that doesn’t have to be.

 

Little Island, Little Island, how do I see thee?

rammed through to burnish Cuomo’s[vi] legacy

(before he leaves public office ignobly).

 

Little Island’s distinctive “pot” piles, in which the pier’s foliage is planted. (Photo by The Village Sun)

 

Little Island, Little Island, how do I see thee?

I spared my kind tour guide[vii] the old third degree

and my Villager’s distrust and jerk of the knee[viii].

 

Little Island, Little Island, how do I see thee?

I so want to trust your philanthropy —

community partners,[ix] tickets for free[x].

 

Little Island, Little Island, how do I see thee?

a lovely small park with a college degree,

Governors Island’s[xi] peewee wannabe.

 

Corten steel on Little Island. (Photo by The Village Sun)

 

Little Island, Little Island, how do I see thee?

As sure as your picnickers sip their Chablis

Corten[xii] steel will degrade, just wait and see.

 

Little Island, Little Island, how do I see thee?

magnificent flowers and topography,

more crowded than rush hour on the I.R.T.

 

Little Island, Little Island, how do I see thee?

What happens if Diller and von Furstenberg flee[xiii]

who will support you in perpetuity?

 

Little Island, Little Island, how do I see thee?

Kimmelman[xiv] called you a charmer, I see.

With reservations[xv] required, I kind of agree.

 

***

[i] Little Island’s 267 precast concrete piles, fabricated in Virginia and transported by barge, are described as tulips.

[ii] Business magnate Barry Diller, married to fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg, conceived of the Island, known until recently as Diller Island.

[iii] $260 million.

[iv] British designer Thomas Heatherwick, also known for the Vessel in Hudson Yards.

[v] According to Benstock, longtime director of the Clean Air Campaign, which devotes most of its energy to protecting the Hudson River: “Lower Manhattan is almost part of the ocean, with gale-force winds and driving rains in a hurricane, smashing everything with corrosive saltwater. There are never no impacts even in calm good weather. That stretch is overdue for a hurricane. The city talks only about flooding, not about the precipitation that is likely. In 2013, a bill was agreed on by a semi-secret task force that includes an indemnification provision. If there’s a hurricane, the Hudson River Park Trust doesn’t have to pay damage claims: The taxpayers pay.”

[vi] In 2017, amid opposition, lawsuits and rising costs, Diller walked away from the project. Governor Cuomo brokered a deal whereby opponents dropped their lawsuits in exchange for a promise to complete the 4.5-acre Hudson River Park, of which the Island is a part, and protect the local estuary. Diller came back.

[vii] Trish Santini, Little Island executive director.

[viii]  Neighborhood preservationists tried to build a modest, green, self-sustaining public park on the Downtown Hudson waterfront in the ’80s; instead we got a city-state partnership park reliant on revenue-generating businesses, trading of air rights and gifts from billionaires (which can sometimes come with strings attached). I tend to believe, as the preservationists did, that the charm of the existing fabric of Greenwich Village and its history as a mecca for creative artists is ultimately the most enduring tourist attraction.

[ix] P.S. 33, 75 Morton, City as School; Westbeth Artists Residents Council, Hudson Guild, The Door, Greenwich House.

[x] In the “Amph,” the 687-seat amphitheater, 30 percent of tickets are reserved for free for Little Island’s community partners, 30 percent are for sale on the Web site for $65, and the remaining 40 percent are available for $25 through the Theater Development Fund.

[xi] Governors Island: 172 acres with hills, vistas, landscaping and arts programming. Little Island: 2.4 acres with hills, vistas, landscaping and arts programming.

[xii] Officially COR-TEN, the steel is designed to rust over time, with the rust eventually forming an attractive protective outer layer requiring no maintenance. Unfortunately, stains are difficult to remove, and moisture can compromise the integrity of the steel. I hope this doesn’t happen on Little Island.

[xiii] The Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation has committed to paying all costs, including the salaries of the 110 employees, but only for 20 years.

[xiv] New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman’s review: “A New $260 Million Park Floats on the Hudson. It’s a Charmer.” He also called it “the architectural equivalent of a kitchen-sink sundae, with a little bit of everything.”

[xv] The Island is open to all comers from 6 a.m. to noon and was supposed to be open again to all comers from 8 p.m. until closing at 1 a.m. Anticipating crowds during peak hours, timed entry reservations were put in place from noon to 8 p.m. at least through September. But crowds have been so large that timed-entry reservations were extended to all evening hours.

One Comment

  1. richard klein richard klein June 13, 2021

    Michele Herman seems desperate to find things to criticize, and embarrasses herself in the process. She chooses to be annoyed by the “grandiosity” of this “vanity spree,” while what we should be doing is to marvel at the joy and fun and escape that those strolling through the park are clearly experiencing. If Herman cares about the public, she should care about the people.

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