General slocum east village walking tour


Jim Kalafus

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Dec 3, 2000
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MERCHANT MARINE MEMORIAL: EFFECTIVE, EERIE, OR BOTH?

Picking up the thread almost two weeks later...

The running theme in the storyline I was going to develop was that I was unsure, during the 13 mile walk I took, if what I was feeling was the effects of 90F heat and air-quality-advisory breathing, or the onset of the flu. As it turned out, all of the above... followed by the fun of learning whether it was the flu or THE flu.

ANYWAY, skipping the various Titanic/Lusitania related sites, which can be revisited later, I'll skip to where this ended... the memorial to the several thousand members of the merchant marine lost in service during WW2.

By the time I arrived at Battery Park, it was close to sunset. The sky had turned that shade of neutral it does on humid NYC days which makes it impossible to take good photos... the whiteish sky always looks like an underexposure, but isn't.

The northwest corner of battery Park is, perhaps, the most sobering waterfront promenade anywhere, ever. The Holocaust Museum, the globe from the World Trade Center plaza, and the Merchant Marine memorial stand in close proximity to one another, turning the uptown end of the park into something thought provoking yet decidedly at odds with the good cheer unfolding a few yards further down the esplanade...

The statue was modeled from a photo, taken by Germans, showing Merchant Mariners stuggling to save themselves after their ship had been torpedoed. A scene which played out hundreds of times less than ten miles from this site during the grim year of 1942....

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The effect of Marisol Escobar's memorial is hard to explain. The drowning man is at the mercy of the tides... at low tide the statue grouping has a small amount of optimism to it, since the fellow's upper body is out of the water and he seems to be seconds away from (temporary... these men were left adrift to die) salvation. At mid-tide, waves break over his head and river water flows out of his mouth; a decidedly creepy but realistic touch. At high tide, of course, the mood of the work is relentlessly grim... which is the whole point...

As I look at the statue, it has a vaguely unsettling effect on me, beyond the obvious, which I have trouble placing. Then it occurs to me. the figures are in the wrong place. They should be on the harbor wall, facing out, from where the viewer can interact with them, so to speak. As placed, the viewer does not have their perspective. The viewer has the perspective of the people who not only abandoned these men at sea to die but who also took closeup souvenir snapshots. One has the perspective of Nazis.

I find myself wondering if this was intentional, or just a case of placing the work where it could be better viewed...

I amble northeast, past the World Trade Center Globe, feeling fluish and a bit odd, post-memorial-viewing. The Globe does not serve to alleviate my mood. In its former site, this statue served as a great focal point to meet friends who worked in the towers. So, it has a lot of summer-day memories attached to it; some pleasant (Jazz players on the Plaza) and some rather silly (synchronized unicyclists come to mind); and in its new locale, smashed and reassembled, it brings a lot of memories to the forefront that I'd rather not deal with at the present....

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Jim Kalafus

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Dec 3, 2000
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IMM/US LINES BUILDING The building with the verdigris along the roof, visible behind and to the left of the shattered orb, is the former United States Line Building, which prior to that had been the IMM Building, at #1 Broadway.

The structure dates to 1883, and is the same building visible in April 1912 "Crowds Jam Bowling Green Waiting For News Of the Titanic" photos. In 1921/22 the original facade was removed, during a late "White City" make-over, and replaced with the present rather bland face. However, the end result won an award when new for best reconstruction of an existing structure....
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The Third Class Entrance, oddly the most elegant and least "striving to be pretty" of the three, was stripped of its identity. Tim and I stumbled upon it in January, 2006, at a point where the renovation work was being done and some, but not all, of the letters which spelled out Third Class had been removed.

The Cunard building, just around the corner, is swathed in scaffolding. Which means one of two things: facade restoration or facade removal.

The IMM building, just as an aside, is only the second structure to stand on this site. The English Colonial era Kennedy mansion, which predated the revolution by at least a generation, stood here intact thru a war, two great fires, and several commercial booms which saw virtually all of its equally old neighbors cleared. Its antiquity drew much comment, but it was finally cleared around 1880 for the present structure.

The oldest man-made structure in downtown Manhattan, (arguably... the foundation fragment from the 1641 Staadt Huys is now visible at Coenties Slip) stands across the street from the IMM building, at Bowling Green.

The fence which surrounds the park is British Colonial. The finials atop the post were once crowns, and were knocked off in a fit of revolutionary fervor when the equestrian statue of George III that once stood within the park was toppled and hacked to pieces...

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HOWEVER, and this is a BIG however, the fence survives not because it was viewed as a historic object but because no one bothered to get rid of it. Examining vintage photos, one can see that the fence was forever being uprooted and moved around as needed. A year or two after the Titanic disaster, the entire thing was removed and dumped. A few years after THAT, someone got to thinkin' about how short sighted the disposal; of the fence was, and much... but not all... of it was recovered from the dump site and put back.

So, it's historic but then, again, it isn't. The portion shown above was THERE in 1775, but not on this site. The chain of history, so to speak, was arguably broken the first time the fence was moved for the sake of convenience, and definitely broken during the 5 years it was in a dump (or "storage area") somewhere. It's a reconstruction, using original material...
 
Nov 11, 2005
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Thank you very much for posting the General Slocum pics ad information. You made my day! Very great! I have a great interest in the General Slocum and the Eastland and i appreciate the information you have place on here very much.
 

Jim Kalafus

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Dec 3, 2000
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You are welcome. If you are ever in New York during the months I am in residence, I will be glad to show you the General Slocum sites.
 

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