It is easy to forget New York is a city of islands and was once the world's busiest harbour. So when the news says a hurricane is heading her way, we do a double take and say like, whaaatt??
Of New York's five boroughs, only the Bronx is on the mainland. For most of its 388-year history from the arrival of the first Dutch settlers, Manhattan was America's ultimate port, its shores criss-crossed by ferries and transports, the East River and the Hudson River as busy as I imagine Fifth Avenue is today.
When Herman Melville wrote Moby Dick, New York's waterfronts bristled with the masts of sailing ships. By the time Marlon Brando starred in On the Waterfront (shot in Hoboken) the maritime tradition had gone awry thanks to air travel and New Jersey's takeover of container shipping. By the 1980s, New York Harbour was derelict, a pile of rotting piers.
Happily I hear there is a renaissance taking place. Crumbling piers have become chic eateries, party venues and art installations.
Governors Island intrigues me. I've read novels where it was full of spy activity and sounded so dark and creepy. Now it's a showpiece apparently, a gem off the glittering southern tip of Manhattan. Instead of being occupied by the US Army and the Coast Guard, it is now filled with quaint Victorian barracks and officers' houses dating back to the Civil War. On summer weekends, free ferries bring people across from Battery Park to spend a day in the leafy oasis ringed with imported golden sand.
We thought the Hudson River had an airstrip in the middle, but apparently it's had an overhaul too and now New Yorkers are being told they can eat fish caught in it, so clean has it become.
I've never been to New York, and only recently started to think I just might go there. Until now the only Statue of Liberty I've seen is the mini version in Paris (a gift from the Americans).
New York, City of Islands, I hope you survive Irene, clean yourself up, welcome your people back, stand tall and shine!
Other East Coasters hit by Irene, I wish you well and offer condolences to those who've lost loved ones and property!
I'll leave you with Van Morrison's Coney Island...and I know he's Irish and is singing about another Coney Island, but he moves me to think of New York...
- Do you live in New York?
- Have you been to New York?
- What can you add to my post? Do I have my facts straight?
- Have you been affected by Hurricane Irene? Share your story...