Wednesday, September 18, 2013
East River explosions.
Actually, the East River isn't a river at all, it's a tidal estuary that links New York's magnificent deep water harbor with the Long Island Sound.
In any event, back in 1885 the East looked different than it looks today. (It's probably cleaner today thanks to the sort of government regulations that are being decried by the radical right.) It was strewn with dozens of rock obstructions, making Hells Gate--already treacherous as the tidal confluence of the flow of the Long Island Sound against the tides of the New York Harbor, even more treacherous.
There were large rocky outcroppings everywhere, to wit: Bald-headed Billy, Hens and Chickens, the Pot and the Frying Pan, Bread and Cheese, the Hog's Back, Mill Rock and Rat Island. The last two of these are still there.
New York decided it was time to clear the waters of these rocks and islands. The city gathered together some 300,000 pounds of dynamite and exploded Flood Rock and many of the other aforementioned outcroppings.
The explosion was the largest ever made by man until our 20th Century nuclear escapades. Tremors could be felt almost 50 miles away in Princeton, NJ.
I do a lot of walking along the esplanade that follows the banks of the East. Though it is adjacent to the FDR drive, it is as serene a place as you're likely to find in New York. Most often the only other denizens of the esplanade are be-ear-budded runners and ruddy Puerto Rican fisherman, who are out there more for the malt liquor they drink than the fish they don't catch.
For the most part these compleat anglers bring an over-sized pail to sit on, a large thermos cooler and two or three long surfcasting rods. They attach these rods with bungee cords to the wrought iron fence which girds the esplanade. The more enterprising of these pescatores sometimes attach a small bell to their bungeed contraption. If a fish does visit their bait the bungee keeps their rods from falling into the drink and the bell wakes them from their 24-proof slumber.
These Puerto Ricans are to a man, philosophers. Their pensiveness is induced, I'm sure, by long solitary hours of silent staring into New York's waters. There isn't much to catch down there. Though the East is cleaner than it's been for centuries, the stripers, blues and weakfish have not returned en masse. Perhaps one day they will.
And when they do, perhaps, my Puerto Rican friends will spend less time sleeping and more time catching.
If that happens, I will miss the quiet.
I like it that way.
Posted by george tannenbaum at 9:24 AM