America’s Cup Racing Returns to New York for First Time In Nearly a Century To Delight of 1%

A warm-up regatta for next June’s America’s Cup Race in Bermuda took place in New York Harbor  May 7 -8, marking the first time an America’s Cup event had been held in the city since 1920.

Six teams hailing from the U.S., England, France, Japan, New Zealand and Sweden raced 50-foot catamarans in a series of short races up and down a stretch of the harbor between Chambers and Rector Streets.

The 165-year-old sailing contest, which began as a yacht race the Brits challenged the Yanks to around the Isle of Wight (Yanks won), has evolved into the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series, a succession of races that culminate in the America’s Cup Championship every four years.

Lousy with class privilege, the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series is hugely aspirational, so it made good PR sense to base the event village (team gear, sailing accessories, Moet champagne)  in front of the Brookfield Place Waterfront Plaza luxury brand mall.

The America’s Cup is a test of sailing skill, yacht design, and fund-raising prowess — somebody’s got to pony up the $100 million dollars required to compete for “The Auld Mug.”  The Hudson’s choppy, dun-colored waters are a far cry from Bermuda’s turquoise baby bath so the publicity payoff a comeback to New York Harbor promised had to be pretty sweet. But like the Rio Olympians required to swim in favela run-off, the elite yachting crews that scrambled around the boats and occasionally got washed off were probably a bit skeeved.

Water quality aside, the Hudson is a working river and one can only marvel at the skill of the fixers who managed to divert hundreds of ferries, tugs, barges and cargo vessels to accommodate the race, which got off to a slow start on Sunday when I watched from the sidelines, picking up speed dramatically in time for the 2:00 p.m. starting time. Aided by the Hudson’s famously rapid current, the boats ultimately raced near the 40 mph speeds they were designed for.

Touted as one of the most exciting events to hit the harbor in recent memory —which it probably was for those sipping nautical-themed cocktails aboard the Manhattan Yacht Club’s floating clubhouse, “Willy Wall,” anchored just north of Ellis Island — for those of us packed 3-deep along the benches and tree planters of Battery Park like a bunch of idiots from some former British colony it was a bit boring but mainly baffling.

This clip, from a very different context, nicely sums up the average New Yorker’s take on yacht racing in the Hudson:

Oyster Restoration Effort Underway Along Hudson

Mike Bloomberg’s million trees may soon have some pollution neutralizing company if The New York Harbor Foundation succeeds in it’s effort to repopulate the harbor with a billion oysters. The Foundation has been working with students from the Governor’s Island-based New York Harbor School over the last six years to foster oyster nurseries and conduct long-term research projects at locations throughout the harbor.

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The kids recently set up a riverside nursery along a stretch of Hudson River Greenway on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Municipal signage warns would-be harvesters to steer clear of the oysters, which may be contaminated by raw sewage and industrial waste. I’m all for leaving harbor oyster colonies alone to thrive but wouldn’t mind watching Anthony Bourdain knock back a few between beers and a couple of butts.

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Dipping Into New York’s Waterways In The World’s First Floating, Self-Filtering Pool

Architect Dong-Ping Wong is preparing to launch the world’s first floating, self-filtering pool on New York’s waterways. I recently interviewed Wong for a story in Tech Times while his sneakers got soaked as the tide rose along the recently made-over East River Esplanade. The following post is taken largely from that story.

Wong calls the concept +Pool and describes it as a giant water filter that draws river water through the pool walls and uses a succession of geotextile layers to sift increasingly minute contaminants out of the water. Filtered pool water is then released back into the river, helping to clean it. He likens the floating pool to a barge that will enable New Yorkers to immerse themselves in the river safely. The pool’s distinctive “plus” shape results from intersecting a lap and sports pool with a lounging pool and kids pool.

The +POOL is envisioned as a floating structure that’s permanently moored at a single location with additional pools being built according to demand. The pool would be open year-round, providing heated water for swimming in winter.

Wong and partner Oana Stanescu at Family, a Manhattan architectural design firm, launched the project five-and-a-half years ago, largely on a whim.

“We just thought it’d be a funny idea and silly (but) it kind of made sense,” says Wong, a 30-something, San Diego native who moved to New York 13 years ago to train as an architect at Columbia University. “When we started it we had no idea what impact this could have on the city, let alone if anybody would want it, so we designed it very simply and put a website up.”

Within two weeks, a deluge of inquiries from around the world crashed the site and the +Pool team got a call from Arup, the international engineering giant behind the Centre Pompidou in Paris, The Sydney Opera House and New York’s Second Avenue Subway. Suddenly they had a real project on their hands.

Two Kickstarter campaigns followed in quick succession. The first was a $25,000 campaign in 2011 to raise money for water quality testing.

“I think we hit our mark in six days and raised about $40,000-$45,000,” says Wong. “We were sampling every 15 minutes so the amount of data we collected was just immense and the most detailed that’s ever been collected on the river, as far as we can tell.”

Wong and his team partnered with Google to set up a +Pool Dashboard that live-streamed the data that was being collected, providing the public with real-time information on the health of the river.

Wong is on track to launch the first +Pool in the summer of 2020 and is currently in the thick of dealing with the Department of Environmental Conservation, the Department of Health, the Department of Environmental Protection and other regulatory agencies that manage public works like municipal pools, boat basins and wastewater discharge facilities around the city.

“Our pool is really interesting because it actually falls between certain codes,” says Wong. “It doesn’t exactly fit into anything that’s written because nobody wrote a code for this kind of thing before. It’s really exciting but it’s also an ongoing conversation to figure out how we modify our project to fit into codes and are there even ways to modify codes to fit into our project. That’s probably the longest ongoing discussion we’re having.”

This waterfront dialogue is taking place amid growing interest in rehabilitating urban waterfront zones around the world. Wong has been invited to speak about his pool in Copenhagen, Berlin, Munich and, in the U.S., in Houston and Memphis, and has found like-minded initiatives underway in all of these cities.

“There are other floating pools…. There’s a great one in Copenhagen…. There’s an existing project in Berlin which (consists of) finding a part of the river where they can plant a lot of reeds and maybe clarify the river a little bit,” says Wong. “They’re putting a pool into the Thames probably in the next few years…. There’s a group in Houston trying to cordon off a part of the bayou so people can swim.”

The level of interest has been such that Wong has started an informal coalition he calls “The City River Swimming Club” to create a network of urban waterfront pools that members can use in major cities around the world.

“There are parks coming back to the river, but the idea that you could actually go for a morning swim as part of your routine or have a lunch break and go for a swim and really have that be part of your daily life is pretty amazing,” says Wong from his wet riverside niche, where seagulls have begun to gather around him in anticipation of snack.

“Here, I actually live closer to the river than I ever have to the ocean but you never think of New York as a beach town. My life has nothing to do with the river on a day-to-day basis aside from this project, but you feel that starting to change in the city.”

Model To Monument 2014, Riverside Park South

"Harbor for Industry" by Lindsay McCosh

“Harbor for Industry” by Lindsay McCosh.

A new crop of sculptures was unveiled along the Hudson in Riverside Park South last week.

Artist Lindsay McCosh used the park’s industrial artifacts, including a defunct train and lifting station, as the inspiration and backdrop for her piece “Harbor for Industry,” an architectural vision of nature in which the four elements are represented by a pair of cement figures, a beacon, a wind turbine, and the Hudson River.

“The Hudson River has a long history of industry and part of it for the park itself is the transfer bridge that was part of a freight train yard that used to go from Manhattan to New Jersey, ” says McCosh, a Detroit native who creates large-scale sculptures using industrial building materials. “They’ve kept a historic relic of the transfer bridge in the park as an icon. I believe it represents strength and industry and a vision of progress for New York,”

Located between West 59th and West 72nd Streets, along the Hudson River shore, Riverside Park South was turned into a public exhibition space for works by artists from the Art Students League four years ago as part of the Model to Monument Program (M2M)  which trains artists to create works for public spaces. This year’s theme, “The Architecture of Nature, ” was rendered by seven female artists: Phyllis Sanfiorenzo, Natsuki Takauji, Laura Barmack, Minako Yoshino, Ana-Sofia Marti, Janet Fekete-Bolton and Lindsay McCosh.

Natsuki Takauji
Phyllis Sanfiorenzo
Phyllis Sanfiorenz, Natsuki Takahuchi, Minaco Yoshio, Laura Barmack, Janet Ficket-Bolten, Ana-Sofia Marti and Lindsay McCosh.

Each artist underwent nine months of intensive training to learn to create monumental works that meet the standards of engineering and public safety required by the Parks Department.

The resulting sculptures took the form of McCosh’s homage to urban workers, a functional swing, a tabloid-reading merman, an abstract tangle of metal cords, a nine-foot statue based on two lovers from Japanese mythology, and 150 paint can lids suspended in a flying sombrero-like arrangement.

The sculptures will be in place until May 2015.

Lindsay McCosh studied Graphic Design and Typography at the School of Visual Arts in New York; multimedia sculpture and reliefs in handmade paper at the Center for Creative Studies in Detroit; and at the Art Institude of Chicago.

Regarding her M2M piece, she states:

“I am using the visual language that already exists in the park history to express the architecture of nature. Through symbols of the four elements I am creating a monument to the train workers and the industriousness of New York City. My sculpture allows for a place to rest as well as inspires the curiosity of future generations through movement and technology.”

– See more at: http://theartstudentsleague.org/ArtistOpportunities/ModeltoMonument/M2MYearFour.aspx#sthash.CuhV4TxB.dpuf

Lindsay McCosh studied Graphic Design and Typography at the School of Visual Arts in New York; multimedia sculpture and reliefs in handmade paper at the Center for Creative Studies in Detroit; and at the Art Institude of Chicago.

Regarding her M2M piece, she states:

“I am using the visual language that already exists in the park history to express the architecture of nature. Through symbols of the four elements I am creating a monument to the train workers and the industriousness of New York City. My sculpture allows for a place to rest as well as inspires the curiosity of future generations through movement and technology.”

– See more at: http://theartstudentsleague.org/ArtistOpportunities/ModeltoMonument/M2MYearFour.aspx#sthash.CuhV4TxB.dpuf

Lindsay McCosh studied Graphic Design and Typography at the School of Visual Arts in New York; multimedia sculpture and reliefs in handmade paper at the Center for Creative Studies in Detroit; and at the Art Institude of Chicago.

Regarding her M2M piece, she states:

“I am using the visual language that already exists in the park history to express the architecture of nature. Through symbols of the four elements I am creating a monument to the train workers and the industriousness of New York City. My sculpture allows for a place to rest as well as inspires the curiosity of future generations through movement and technology.”

– See more at: http://theartstudentsleague.org/ArtistOpportunities/ModeltoMonument/M2MYearFour.aspx#sthash.CuhV4TxB.dpuf

Lindsay McCosh studied Graphic Design and Typography at the School of Visual Arts in New York; multimedia sculpture and reliefs in handmade paper at the Center for Creative Studies in Detroit; and at the Art Institude of Chicago.

Regarding her M2M piece, she states:

“I am using the visual language that already exists in the park history to express the architecture of nature. Through symbols of the four elements I am creating a monument to the train workers and the industriousness of New York City. My sculpture allows for a place to rest as well as inspires the curiosity of future generations through movement and technology.”

– See more at: http://theartstudentsleague.org/ArtistOpportunities/ModeltoMonument/M2MYearFour.aspx#sthash.CuhV4TxB.dpu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sculptures will be in place until May 2015.

 

Spanish Galeon Sails Up Hudson, Docks At Pier 84

 

A Spanish galeon sailed up the Hudson River for what may be the first time ever on August 11th and docked near the Intrepid for a little over a week, looking a bit like a Model T parked across from a Cadillac Fleetwood at a Barret Jackson event.

The ship, which is 175 feet long and weighs 470-plus tons, is a replica of the cargo ships used during the 16th and 17th centuries by Spanish traders and explorers like Ponce de León, who is thought to have used a similar vessel to sail from Puerto Rico to Florida in 1513 to search for the fountain of youth.

Constructed and owned by the Nao Victoria Foundation based in Seville, Spain, where it was was built using traditional methods, El Galeon Andalucia sailed to New York City from St. Augustine, Florida, where it docked for several weeks to commemorate Florida’s discovery by Spanish explorers 500 years ago.

While a galeon this size would have had trouble navigating the shallow inlets of Florida in places like St. Augustine, a river as deep and wide and the Hudson would have easily accomodated the ship, even if fully loaded with the sugar, tobacco, fruits, lumber and spices it carried north from the Caribbean as part of it’s trade route.

El Galeon’s 28-member crew work, dine, bathe and sleep in extremely close quarters, much like their seafaring forebears. These days, though, there are women on board — a situation that would have been unheard of back in the day.

“It took us 24 days to cross the Atlantic,” said crew member Lucrecia Moron Sanchez. “Sometimes you wake up and you look around and there is nothing but the ocean and you feel bad.”

But generally, the recent grad, who majored in art history, was enjoying the high seas adventure with the predominantly male crew of volunteers from Andalusia.

By the time they return to their home port in Seville, the crew of El Galeon will cover more than 900 nautical miles, working more than 9,600 square feet of sail like Spanish sailors did half a millennium ago.

Enter Sandman

 

A 20-foot sand castle recently rose up in a small plaza across from Water and Moore Streets, steps from the Staten Island Ferry Terminal in Lower Manhattan.  A steady stream of commuters disembarking the ferry have watched sculptor Matt Long spend his days carving the pint-sized palace out of a sand mound dumped amidst the steel and glass office towers that dominate the area.

What are you gonna do if it rains? Asks a guy on his way to the ferry.

“It rained like heck last night,” replies Long, an S.I. native. “It’s fine.”

Part of a campaign to occupy the privately owned public spaces in the Seaport Area through the middle of August, possibly to keep protesters out of them, the Water Street structure is one of hundreds of sand sculptures Long has made his living carving over the last decade.

When he isn’t busy sculpting towers and turrets, Long talks with the many onlookers who gather to watch him work. One of the most common questions they ask him is how he protects his sand sculptures from the wind and rain.

“I add a lot of water when I start and then once I’m done carving an area I have Elmer’s Glue and water thinned in a garden sprayer and I spritz that on. It makes a little tiny M&M shell on the outside.”

It seems like scant protection against the elements but Long has built his quixotic career on the formula’s effectiveness.

So how has he managed to make a living building sand castles for the last ten years?

“Ho, gimme the money!” is Long’s short answer.

Currently, in addition to selling his Can You Dig It? line of sand tools, he takes part in an annual round of competitions around the world and across the U.S. in beach towns like Hampton Beach, NH,  Revere Beach, MA,  Virginia Beach, VA and Siesta Key, FLA.

“The world championships were in Atlantic City a few weeks ago,” says Long. “I placed third in the doubles division against seventeen countries.”

Long will be spending much of August at the Jersey Shore, working on a series of kid-friendly sculptures for the Stronger Than The Storm campaign and carving a commemorative sculpture at nearby Monmouth Park Race Track during their annual tournament. Long says he also does team building events for large corporations, citing American Express as a recent client.

Despite it’s romantic appeal, Long isn’t sentimental about his castle-building work. The Water Street sculpture that was supposed to stand until July 31st was still standing on August 18 and Long says he fully expects to be driving a little back hoe and loading the Water Street castle into a dumpster before the summer is through.

Birders Flock to the Hudson the Morning After Hurricane Sandy

“It’s amazing how variable the experiences can be. We were basically fine. No power loss and yet 8 million people are apparently without power.”

That was how a passerby summed it up for me when our respective paths came to a halt before a downed tree in Riverside Park. It was one of dozens of majestic tress struck down by the massive storm.

Famished animals, many left homeless by the hurricane, forraged for food among the litter of leaves and branches.

In the course of a walk by the river I saw feeding squirrels and starlings, some ducks and even a red-tailed hawk. A group of birders gathered at the 79th Street Boat Basin Cafe to watch storm-tossed ocean birds make their way up the Hudson toward New York Harbor, and ultimately back to the sea.

“Storm Petrels and jaegers are things that we wouldn’t ordinarily see here but after hurricanes they often turn up,” said Dr. Richard Fried a veterinarian and local birder.

“A lot of birds that get blown off course never make it back to where they’re supposed to go because they’re exhausted or injured or they’re in the wrong habitat to get food or they’re preyed upon by predators they don’t normally have to defend themselves against.”

According to Fried, The Ornithology Department for the Museum of Natural History has put out a call asking birders to bring the bodies of rare species they might come across to the museum to be added to their collections.

POSTSCRIPT: 1/5/13 Columbia University Journalism School students Matthew Claiborne and Salima Koroma produced this great piece on post-Sandy birding using some of the above footage shot along the Hudson River during and after Sandy.