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Harlem Meer, 09.15.12, Day One

By September 16, 2012November 3rd, 2021Sketches

The Harlem Meer is a large-ish 11 acre manmade lake on the north-east corner of Central Park.  As it’s visible from Central Park North/110th street and 5th avenue it has been a large part of my New York experience through years of commuting.  My first experience of Christo’s Gates was playing hookey and walking through the park starting with the Meer after an enormous snowfall.

It’s often difficult to remember that Central Park is a constuct, as such is the genius of Frederick Law Olmstead the park’s engineer.  So for us “recent” New Yorkers it may be difficult to fathom that the Island in the Meer was only voted into existence in 1989 and fabricated shortly thereafter…

The island would be created in the Harlem Meer, an 11-acre lake at the northeast corner of Central Park, and would be about 150 feet north of the Lasker Rink and Pool.

In rough dimensions, the island would be 55 feet by 110 feet, or about one-eighth of an acre, and would rise seven-and-a-half feet above the water’s surface. It would have tupelo, sweet gum, willow, alder and dogwood trees, blueberry and bayberry bushes, wild rice and bulrush. To discourage boat docking and other human visits, an underwater fence would be built around it.

Henry J. Stern, the Parks and Recreation Commissioner, said the island was his idea, inspired by the landscapes of Lake Placid and Lake George upstate. ”Manhattan is too large to see at once. I wanted an island you could see from the ground and get a sense of its insularity. Why shouldn’t Manhattan have something on that scale – delicate, with the land pushing through the water?” – NYT, Feb 06, 1989

It has long been my desire to take ownership of the Meer.  It’s a beautiful corner of the park and undergoes a wild array of colors and shapes as the foliage roils over the course of the year.  Perhaps my grand intentions are folly but today was a first salvo at working out some plein air landscape drawing issues.  Wrestling with materials i gather is part of the special elegance of the task.  Beautiful day for an outing.




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