Monday, November 30, 2009

Concrete Plant Park

A great article about decommissioned train stations in the Bronx ran in yesterday's Times. Three stations were featured: the Westchester Avenue station, the Morris Park station, and the Hunts Point Avenue station. I had already seen the Morris Park and Hunts Point stations in person, so of particular interest was the Westchester Avenue station, which is also the only one that hasn't been functionally recycled in some fashion. (Morris Park is now a gun club, and Hunts Point contains neighborhood retail outlets.)

But the really interesting story was semi-buried and mentioned briefly:
A trip to the Westchester avenue station is worth the cab fare, in part because right next door is Concrete Plant Park, a combination green space and industrial archaeology project that runs along the Bronx River. Two sides of the station are visible from the street, and two sides are visible on the park side, for a 360-degree view of this train wreck of decay.

So, let me get this right -- an abandoned train station and an urban archaeological site in the same place, in the Bronx?! How could I not immediately visit?

(note: This is an easy Bronx location to visit. The park is located right at the Whitlock Avenue subway station on the 6 line; the park entrance itself is at Westchester Avenue and the Sheridan Expressway.)

Concrete Plant Park is a non-typical name for a green space, but it seems that things are headed in a more organic direction when it comes to NYC parks. Just like the High Line, effort was made to preserve a site's uniqueness. Highly-stylized yet organic-looking seating, wildflowers, and the use of stone landscaping create a sense of calm while accentuating the inherent historical industrial component of the locale. Yay, New York City Department of Parks & Recreation!

Of course, a view of a body of water on a sunny day also helps. Looking just beyond the water, a park visitor sees a group of graffiti'd building. In the center of the park are various concrete plant fixtures, recently painted over with RustOleum (or at least that's what it looks like). The Gowanus Canal also came to mind as an aesthetically-similar project.

A lot of stories already detail the acreage and costs associated with this park, which will be part of the Bronx Greenway (our household is eagerly awaiting the completion of this project, so that we can easily bike through bigger swaths of the Bronx and Westchester County). All I want to convey is my feeling of happiness at discovering Concrete Plant Park. Connecting the Hunts Point and Soundview neighborhoods, I hope that the locals see the Park as the gem that it is. Taggers already got one of the chess tables (Really, they can't go after a bigger challenge?! Tagging a table is lame.), and we saw only three people in the park during our visit. (Two walked though the park together and one spent a considerable amount of time taking in his surroundings.) But it seems like a lot of events are held in the park during warmer seasons (there is a kayak launch), and I look forward to returning. A few child-focused details would've been nice, but there's a lot to take in/see/do. Still, the Parks logo located at the top of one of the towers made me chuckle.