This weekend I am in New York. Or – to be more accurate – Brooklyn. At this moment, shortly after 9 o’clock on a Sunday morning, I am sitting at the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. I am in a church of sorts, the congregation consisting of local residents looking for solitude, a stroll or a morning run, and visitors like me observing the view: Ellis Island, Statue of Liberty, New Jersey, Lower Manhattan, Brooklyn Bridge, and the Empire State Building all in my line of vision. The choir is unique: birds chirping the melody, walkers and runners keeping beat, and the constant hum of traffic underneath reminding us all that this church we currently sit in is in the middle of the country’s biggest metropolis.
Brooklyn Heights. I have heard the name before many times, read about it and seen countless movies and TV shows set here. I see the beautiful brownstone row houses with the walk-up steps and instantly associate them with Brooklyn, which then calls to mind hipsters and well-to-do young families. These are the people that call this place home. But do they see what I see? Is that what draws them here? The tree-lines streets are no doubt beautiful, the mature branches forming canopies, shielding young families from the sun and from the noise of the world that is just across the river. The soil is fertile, the climate temperate, the little wildlife that remains resilient. Do they see the natural forest that once was? The rich soil and bountiful harvest? The awe inspiring views that Mother Earth has graced them with? The vista before it was glass and concrete and steel? I look up from my notebook and I see industry: cargo ships, ferries, ports and skyscrapers. It is the industry that makes this incarnation of Brooklyn Heights possible, that provides the jobs that pay the money to afford the beautiful and protected homes in this serene corner of the city. But what if there was another way? A way that better respected the beauty that we so dearly grasp the last wisps of in this church where I sit?
May 21, 2017