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I wrote “Balancing” a year ago and the “. . . or Not” version in July, and still feel the same. Change feels threatening; even my familiar looks quite gawky when he molts.



Here’s my latest Red Hook sugar mill ex-Revere Sugar space foto, looking like a war zone. Change–improvement or degradation– is threatening, generating equal stress levels. Names change too. Bay Ridge, for example, used to be Gelen Hoek (“yellow hook” in Dutch for the mud color) and the Indians called it something else before that.



Recently the NY Times ran a story about an impending name change for the Molly Pitcher rest area on the New Jersey Turnpike. No! Please. Molly Pitcher sparked my interest in history in sixth grade. Several unforgettable Mollys have enriched my inner life since then. Ships attract me in part for their names; Surfer Rosa, featured earlier this year, is poetry in steel. See the bridge below and imagine some new names.



So the name “Bayonne Bridge” may lack the art of the girder assemblage, but I’d rather pay tolls than have it free but corporate sponsors calling ( repainted) Golden Arches or Dunkin’ Donuts Bridge. Goethals could become Gucci or even a menacing-sounding Gap Bridge. Yikes. And then the Verrazano Bridge might be the Verizon Bridge or *intriguing* Victoria’s Secret Arch . . . I hope the energy drink Propel never sponsors a bridge.

Please make “Molly Pitcher” stay; I’d never have been interested in history had it not been for the foto of Molly in my history book, a passion that keeps me sane whenever I must drive the NJ Turnpike.

Photos, WVD.

This title last emerged back in January, mid-winter. Mid-summer returns it. Some rhythms flow and ebb like the tides, energy levels, breathing, the moon. So do movements on the watery boro. Below see sloop Clearwater sailing ‘tween wooded banks, Indy in pursuit, and



below Clearwater motors south ‘tween Manhattan and Weehawken.



Light Vane barge Double Skin 56 ebbs southward, stern first


on the hip of tug Wicomico, Louisiana-built tug named for the river in Maryland and small sibling of Brandywine, (see fantastic launch sequence) and



then the full Double Skin 56 gets pushed northward.



Red Hook’s transformation demonstrates an entirely different rhythm, unidirectional and relentless, as seen from mid July 2007 ….



to late July. By September, I predict the stack and all industrial structure surrounding it will disappear.



All photos by Will Van Dorp.

Eye sore . . . (taken summer 2006)



or missed opportunity for a memorial to an industrial past? I just . . .



miss the dome!  That end of the harbor has lost its distinction. (foto May 2007)



Loose bricks and a bare slab is all that remains.

Below are two more images by Will Van Dorp from July 2007.



Closer up. Post-apocalyptic . . . with Red Hook cranes in the background.



All photos by Will Van Dorp.

We lose our balance sometimes, regain it only to lose it again. Inevitably, this triggers changes, some gain and some loss.

We regain swimming in the East river. We had a manatee doing a reconnoitre of the Hudson this past summer. But way off at the other end of our ports and containerized supply chain, we lose species, as the New York Times reported on December 14. That dolphin’s habitat was degraded partly by our cheap stuff.

In 2020 what will the above part of Red Hook be?

And this part of a bank in Secaucus, what was this in 1920?


W. O. Decker had the good fortune to be saved. In fact, there’s a step-by-step description of the rebuild in the navigation bar to the right on that South Street Seaport page.

This tug or barge on the shore of Shooter’s Island on the southern side of Newark Bay is lost.
Will 2050 bring fusions of machine and plastic like the one above currently at Socrates Sculpture Park?

All photos by Will Van Dorp.

One of my favorite “ear worms,” Gordon Lightfoot’s “Ghosts of Cape Horn” has a line “see them all in sad repair, demons dance everywhere … and none to tell the tales.” New York City’s waterways have ghosts of this sort as well.


This vessel lies in the mud not far from the Whitestone Bridge.


Can you make out the masts of a submerged lightship just north of the Erie Basin in Red Hook?


Not submerged but locked into the south side of the entrance to the Gowanus Canal is this ship. A stern view, listing Rio Lobos as registry port, is visible from the Brooklyn Queens Expressway .


The Kills have a wealth of ghost ships. Short of travelling through the Kills at low tide and seeing many like the above, you can see Noble’s fantastic drawings of ghost ships that have been claimed by the kills mud at Snug Harbor Cultural Center on Staten Island. It houses the fabulous Noble Maritime Collection, the drawings of John A. Noble.


Above is a waterway view of the white-black-gray stern of Wavertree, not really a ghost ship although it has moved mostly only vertically since coming to Manhattan in 1968 from … Argentina. Wavertree was dismasted off Cape Horn in 1910 and could have become one of the vessels of the Lightfoot song; instead she became an elegantly shaped warehouse and barge in southern South America until she came to New York, where she waits in a ship purgatory.

All photos by Will Van Dorp.

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March 2023