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Posts Tagged ‘Tom Stoelker’

BY TOM STOELKER

Green-Wood Cemetery embraces change and looks to bring degraded landscapes back to life.

FROM THE JUNE 2021 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

There’s a turn at a road in Green-Wood, the 478-acre cemetery in Brooklyn, where tall blond grass reaches up to meet age-old headstones. The effect could seem like a windswept meadow, but for those whose loved ones are interred at Green-Wood, it may look like overgrown weeds. While there is a growing public awareness of lawns as environmentally problematic, generations of Americans continue to pay good money to rest beneath a bed of green in perpetuity. If you couple the love of grass with the fact that more Americans are choosing cremation over burial, the dilemmas facing the burial industry, and Green-Wood in particular, become apparent.

Green-Wood is an arboretum with more than 8,000 trees of nearly 750 unique species and is one of the largest green spaces in New York City, but it’s also a business that sells real estate in one of the most competitive markets in the world.

Patterned after Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts, originally home to the Lenape people, and the site of the Battle of Long Island in 1776, Green-Wood’s initial 200 acres were established on glacial moraines that formed Brooklyn’s highest point. In 1838, Henry Evelyn Pierrepont engaged David Bates Douglass, a West Point engineering professor and retired Army major, to lay out the drives, lakes, and paths of the cemetery. By September 5, 1840, local citizens John and Sarah Hanna were the first to be laid to rest. Today the Hannas are joined by more than 570,000 others, including Boss Tweed, Leonard Bernstein, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Louis Comfort Tiffany, whose glasswork graces more than a few mausolea. (more…)

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BY TOM STOELKER

A new film documents managed retreat for three New York City neighborhoods.

FROM THE JULY 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

The start of Nathan Kensinger’s quiet documentary Managed Retreat begins innocently enough. Waves from the Atlantic roll in toward the viewer. A lone couple walks hand in hand along a desolate beach. A seawall meanders off into the distance. An abandoned car in a marsh sends a dissonant note that builds to an ominous beat. The sound of waves gives way to the “beep, beep, beep” of an excavator backing up. Abandoned homes fill the frame until the excavator’s bucket reaches out to nudge one of the houses to the ground. It is a slow, lumbering destruction, with the “beep, beep, beep” tracking time.

Kensinger’s 18-minute film, which is currently screening at film festivals, documents the managed retreat of three New York City neighborhoods on Staten Island that never fully recovered from Hurricane Sandy. Instead, in an unusual approach, residents organized to sell their land to the state, left their homes behind, and let nature return. The film stands witness to an unheard-of scenario in New York: (more…)

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BY TOM STOELKER

At Paterson Great Falls, one of the newer national parks, Americans made many things, including history.

At Paterson Great Falls, one of the newer national parks, Americans made many things, including history.

From the August 2016 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Paterson, New Jersey, is a tough town. Gang violence is prevalent, teachers are being laid off, and about 30 percent of the city’s residents live in poverty. But the city’s got soul. On Market Street, the lively main thoroughfare, bachata music spills from 99-cent stores, and the scent of Peruvian food wafts through the air. Paterson has been a magnet for immigration since the 19th century, and the reason why is found nearby. Twenty minutes from the center of town is the Great Falls, now part of Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park, where the Passaic River makes a majestic drop of 77 feet off basalt rock cliffs before it continues its twisted path. These are the falls that made Paterson.

In 1778, Alexander Hamilton, General George Washington’s aide-de-camp, recognized the river’s potential to harness power for both manufacturing and geopolitics. Hamilton understood the young nation needed to grow its industry to be independent of Europe. Through a group he helped form in 1791, the Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures (SUM), Hamilton chose Paterson as the site of the nation’s first planned manufacturing development.

Gianfranco Archimede, who today directs Paterson’s Historic Preservation Commission, said: “At the end of the war, the king essentially said, (more…)

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PHOTOS AND TEXT BY TOM STOELKER

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Students stop to take a group photo on their environmental justice tour in Hunts Point.

Last November, Charles Orgbon, the 19-year-old founder and CEO of Greening Forward, was in New York City to organize the annual International Young Environmentalists Youth Summit. Outside his hotel near Times Square, he heard helicopters, sirens, and chanting. People were streaming onto the streets shouting, “Black lives matter!”

Earlier that day, Orgbon had been at the Point, a community center in the Hunts Point section of the South Bronx, the nation’s poorest congressional district. He met with teen leaders from ACTION, a group working on social and environmental justice issues. They took a selfie. Later that night, with frustration flowing through the streets of midtown, he studied the image, trying to make sense of the day.

(more…)

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