I’ve been spending time scrolling back through the image archives, as I recover from an injury that prevents me from using a camera. Also, a year ago my desktop computer crashed and though most of my files were backed up, there’s the laborious process of importing photos back into lightroom, keywording and rating them…I’m working on that, too.
The last post about Staten Island reminded me of a series of photos I took out the windows of the apartment where I lived, from 2008 -2012. It was a top floor corner apartment in an older building, drenched with light from many large windows, but quite vulnerable to the impact of powerful storms. A favorite window faced west, down my street. Lined with older two story homes and punctuated at the end by St. Peters Catholic church, it’s a quiet block in an area of quick transitions from low-income projects to middle class homes. My building struck the bargain between the two; there was nothing swank about it, but it retained a considerable charm from decades past.
I became interested in the intersecting roof lines and shingle patterns of the older homes.
The shadows were interesting, too. Below, the sun dried part of the cupola, leaving the shingles under the chimney’s shadow and out of the sun still wet from a summer shower.
There was plenty of light for cuttings to root in the windowsill.
Foggy mornings, summer and winter storms, September hurricanes – the weather always provided something to ponder (or cringe from).
This is a northwest-facing window after yet another major snowstorm, with the snow piled up like cotton candy on the screen. Those ugly black bars are NYC required child-proofing (no, I didn’t have a young child living with me, but neither was this the sort of building where the landlord would honor a request to remove the bars…nor requests for more heat!). The radiator under this window didn’t work. But like I said, the light was plentiful even in winter, and hey, I had FIVE closets, high ceilings and hardwood floors!
Are you feeling cold yet? The man in the old house next door kept the cold away by burning anything he could find. His chimney belched smoke that made us gag.
There were days when we enjoyed a classic winter wonderland…
Enjoyed? There’s the matter of cars covered by fresh mounds of snow, thanks to efficient NYC snow removal.
Digging your car out, walking the dog, everything is a chore after a heavy snowfall.
On more than one occasion I got busted for not helping…
I admit, I was happier upstairs checking out the view. To the northwest we could see ships, barges and tugs on the Kill van Kull.
We benefited from beautiful sunsets and evening views out the west-facing windows.
All that, from one window! The second window I liked to look out is on an angle facing northwest, overlooking the busy shipping lanes of the Kill van Kull. According to Wikipedia, the strait is “the principal access for oceangoing container ships to Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal, the busiest port facility in the eastern United States.” A critical transportation corridor since at least colonial times, the channel tends to be too shallow for huge, modern bulk carriers. One of our many complaints about living on the north tip of Staten Island was the constant noise of dredging, as huge machines worked day and night to deepen the passageway and keep stuff moving.
Another complaint was hot summers (we were right under a flat, dark roof) and cold winters. It’s an old building with an old furnace system, monitored remotely by an un-generous landlord. The windows let in a lot of weather. In fact, once one window blew right out of the frame and landed on the floor in shattered pieces!
But here was a better day:
It was interesting to see the container ships with their tugs being guided in and out of the narrow passage. I found a ship tracking website which enabled me to identify amd ;earn about the ships I saw floating by. As I write this, looking at a ship tracking site, I see the ubiquitous McAllister and Moran tugs are racing through the Kill van Kull, the oil tanker Tenacity is tied up across the way in Bayonne, and Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas, a huge cruise ship just launched last year, is at home port in Bayonne readying for a Bermuda cruise on the 15th of this month (it would be on the right edge of these photos).
Never a “cruise type” of person, I was not enthused when offered a cruise trip from NY to Bermuda on Holland America’s SS Statendam, back in the late 70’s. Eventually I capitulated to family pressure and went, bringing a friend. It was a fortunate decision – I was to be amazed on that trip, again and again. I was impressed by the elegant beauty of the ship with its teak decks and formal dining rooms, moved by the Indonesian and Dutch crew who were to a person, competent, gracious and dignified, and thrilled by Bermuda’s beauty and the sweet scents that floated on by as I scooted around the island. But I was most deeply moved by an encounter on the island with a noted naturalist, David Wingate.
As a young, enthusiastic birder I thought I might as well contact someone on Bermuda to show me around. Birders are good that way. I knew little about Wingate but I wrote to him and he agreed to take my friend and me on an outing while we were in port. It turns out he is a notable naturalist, the man responsible for restoring the island’s national bird, once thought extinct, to a viable population. An intense, single-minded man who grew up on the island, he became Bermuda’s first Conservation Officer and embarked on a major project to save the endangered Bermuda petrel. His decades of tireless work creating favorable nesting habitat likely prevented the petrel from going extinct.
Wingate had enough focused energy for two people. He actually recreated the original habitat of native plants, which had been destroyed hundreds of years before, on one of Bermuda’s small islands, Nonsuch. How did he accomplish that? By hand, over fifty years time. Dedication.
We didn’t have time to see Nonsuch but Mr. Wingate took us in a small boat through a Bermuda mangrove swamp. As he introduced us to the ecology of mangroves he began to describe, in vivid detail, the depredations which resulted from all the introduced fauna people brought to the islands over the centuries. Islands are particularly vulnerable to loss of species when humans arrive with their pigs and rats and agricultural aspirations.
Take the Great kiscadaee – a cheerful, common bird that delighted me the first time I saw it on Bermuda. I was wrong to assume it was native – no, it was brought in to control a lizard problem (and the lizards had been brought in to control scale on plants) but it ate just about everything else, wreaking new havoc.
What is the solution? In a country with strict gun laws, it was shocking to hear Wingate quietly, almost cautiously declare that the answer was the gun. Kiscadees can’t be caught easily, but they can be shot. Pick them off, one by one, and Bermuda would have one less problem species. It was a chilling conclusion to reach in such a gently beautiful place, but the logic was clear.
David Wingate has retired, but that idea lives on. When we met him, he was the only conservation officer allowed to use a gun at work (and he was probably the only conservation officer). Last year the Bermudian government considered widening the authority to use guns to destroy feral chickens, crows and pigeons to a certain members of the public. It’s controversial, but it may yet happen.
The big success story in Bermuda ecology is that Bermuda petrels are now successfully nesting on Nonsuch Island after a 300 year absence, thanks to Wingate’s work. Rising seas threaten some nesting sites but Nonsuch seems safer, having higher ground. However, in recent years hurricanes have taken a toll. There are only about 250 – 300 of the birds living on our planet now. They remain vulnerable.
But however the petrel’s numbers wax and wane, David Wingate’s passionate work on behalf of native Bermuda ecology continues to inspire.
Back to watching boats in New York:
There’s my favorite boat, below – must be a tight squeeze for the captain in there!
You’re looking at an industrialized part of Bayonne, New Jersey, but that is a golf course on the hill behind the oil tanks! The NY/NJ border runs down the middle of the waterway. The Statue of Liberty and lower Manhattan are off to the right, out of sight.
Looking out the same window, a grand old tree held my attention on many afternoons. Cherry trees bloomed under its sheltering branches in Spring.
Parting shots: even with the screen covered in ice, or obscuring the view at night, the view satisfied!
Note on the photos: Taken with an older camera phone, a Lumix point and shoot and an early SONY Nex, the quality of these photos wasn’t always what I wanted. I have reworked them in Lightroom.