Sometimes it takes an outta town idea to remind me of some cool stuff nearby.
This is the weekend of Jane’s Walks, a worldwide movement of local walking tours. Friday night I joined an after-work group at the South Street Seaport, which I’d visited several times. It was led by four local residents of this historic district that preserves the nautical side of New York’s history. The area at dusk is eye candy.
We met our guides at the Titanic Memorial Lighthouse, a 60-foot tall replica of a light that once topped the Seaman’s Church. The orb-like thing on top lit up and would be lowered each day at noon. The next day, the light would be raised at five minutes before noon to be lowered. The intricate riggings of the historic ships and, behind them, the cables of the Brooklyn Bridge create a massive lacework bobbing in the wind.
Jane’s Walk started in Toronto, Canada in honor of urban activist Jane Jacobs who, parenthetically, was from New York. She believed in and wrote about cities and the people who live in them. The walk I took part in was led by members of Save Our Seaport, a local group that is fighting to maintain the ambience and historical accuracy of the area. This, in the face of corporate attempts to control and build on sections of it. Already in the works is a strange, glass shopping structure with all the charm of a suburban mall abutting the wooden boardwalk.
So many other countries preserve and showcase their artifacts. Their buildings and streets remain as reminders of culture and history. New York is dropping the ball on this. How much more high-density housing for the wealthy do we really need? How much more can our schools and subways handle?
If you visit the Seaport, wear walking shoes. Much of the original Belgian block paving remains. The little streets and piers are great for exploring. It gets windy, this being near the bottom tip of Manhattan. But it’s lovely. While it lasts.