Concrete Plant Park
Barretto Point Park
What do these parks have in common? They’re all in the South Bronx!
What do they have to do with things vegan and queer? Good question!
All three parks are future forward, design conscious and by the people and for the people. They also host an array of free-living animals.
That’s right, not dogs and cats but osprey, snowy egrets, herons, canvasback ducks, fiddler crabs and ribbed mussels. There are plenty of the usual folk, too. Swans, pigeons, gulls and an abundance of black squirrels round out local fauna. Each park has a foot in the past. Concrete Plant hosted until 1987, you guessed it, a concrete batch mixing facility. Just off Barretto Point was the site of the worst maritime disaster to hit NYC – the sinking of the PS General Slocum. Over a thousand people died and their lifeless bodies were pulled up into what is now Barretto Point Park. Soundview contains a 10,000 year old glacial erratic and was initially composed entirely of marshland. That ecosystem is now being reestablished. We queer vegans care about others and believe that all beings should live on their own terms.
What’s palpable about these three parks is their vibrational energy. Yes, Manhattan has it’s great work of art Central Park and Brooklyn has Prospect. When you’re in those two parks the energy is anything but relaxing. It’s down right stressful to be in the lungs of Manhattan and Brooklyn. Why is that? Vaux and Olmstead designed those two parks. Yes, there are natural features but nature submitted in plenty of ways to the architects’ will. In addition, there is the enormous amount of humans availing themselves of these expanses of horizon. What is it like to be a part of and to navigate all that activity? Today, these parks are what they are. They’re conveyances. They’re brief respites from the structured stalagmites of our environs. Their conduits to get from here to there. They have practically nothing to do with the elements of air, water, fire and earth.
Central Park and Prospect Park are also full of agendas. Must socialize. Must beat my own time and your time, too. Must cinch the deal. Must nail the date. Must find the perfect spot. Must make sure my power base isn’t slipping at any point. Must make it all about me.
What this adds up to is a colossal experiential shortcoming. It is nearly impossible to connect with earth, air, water and fire – all parts of ourselves – in this context. We need to take these two landscapes of artifice at face value. They’re urban works of art. In that regard, they are spectacular and have yet to be surpassed. They’re framed which means you’re framed within their borders. When you’re within, these two parks become the equivalent of film noir. Everyone is framed, double-crossed, mistaken and misunderstood.
With all that, the phrases ‘left for dead’ and ‘lifeless body’ can’t help but arise when navigating those two spaces. Why? Because of the containment of space, the confinement of energy, the environments that they are all promote energetic phenomena that abide these enclosures. You’re cornered, you’re badgered, you’re never free. The possibility of death is continuous side-eye surveillance for all.
What about the three jewels revealed thus far in the Bronx? For starters, those horrible death-related phrases just mentioned do not come to mind. Why is that? It is because these spaces engender dignity, quieting, connection and respect. There is much pride of place and it exists without competition. Nothing is fraught with capitalism. In other words, you know it when you feel it. You’re stepping into true natural topography. You’re not stepping into a shifting landscape filled with textbots and self-satisfied jerks. These parks aren’t ego theatres. They’re just parks. What’s brilliant about them is the spaces they occupy in the warp and woof within the fabric that is the great South Bronx. There is a renaissance going on in this part of the Bronx that has nothing to do with the traditional bullet points of gentrification. It’s about true connection to time and place which, in turn, taps into the timeless art of being – the quality of the eternal as opposed to the transformational – that every neighbourhood should hope to have.
We recently visited these parks with shoulders down, trapezius muscles in position and jaws unclenched. That dynamic of mind/body has never happened in Manhattan or Brooklyn. So consider the MetroCard swipe. Consider the transfer to a local bus. Be surprised. Experience relaxation and really feel at one with your city for an afternoon. Feel what it’s like to be home.
A little more on Concrete Plant
A little more on Barretto Point
A little more on Soundview
To see all three parks, budget about four hours to pound through every path. Start by taking the 5 train to Intervale Avenue. Grab the Bx6 to Barretto Point Park. Then do the reverse but get off at 163rd Street/Southern Blvd and take the Bx5 to Soundview. When done hop back on and get off at Concrete Plant and enter at Bruckner Blvd. Walk through the entire park and exit to take the 6 train at Whitlock Avenue directly across the street.