“Who looks upon a river in a meditative hour, and is not reminded of the flux of all things?”
I first gazed at my stretch of the Hudson as a visitor at a summer wedding reception from the opposite shore. On the balcony of a New Jersey high rise apartment in New Jersey at dusk, I fell in love with the inviting shore line, the old buildings of the West Village, how the river curved gently to the east, giving slight protection from the turbulence of the harbor entry below. I later learned on this riverfront, for thousands of years before Henry Hudson sailed by exploring and appropriating, had a different life. Native Americans traded at The Sapocanikan Trading Post, located where the Minetta Trout River emptied into the Hudson. The Minetta brook still flows, but it was pushed underground long ago to make more space for the industrial waterfront of the nineteenth century, now a series of ghostly piers.
For the past five years of my thirty five in New York, my mornings have begun seated at my window with a cup of coffee, overlooking the Hudson River. Here I watched as the abandoned waterfront was slowly reclaimed again. The decaying piers gave way to a wide strip of green. Strollers appeared, and cyclists sped by the readers and sunbathers. Climbing toys for children were built in the shape of large wooden ships, equipped with binoculars to look out at a river alive with boats—ferries, barges and tankers, sail boats, tugboats, kayaks and canoes. I used to be comforted by the promise that the garbage depot would soon be gone, replaced by a park, beautifully grassed with bike paths. Then for years after 9/11, this depot was became the destination trucks bearing the remains of the twin towers, hundreds loading debris onto barges, floated to a Staten Island landfill. For the last two years this view has been covered by derricks and drilling rigs. The civic guardians of the park gave permission for the Spectra fracked gas pipeline to come ashore, fed into the insatiable Con Edison processing plant.
Demonstrators and supporters of Occupy the Pipeline drew to the waterfront. With music and conversation, leaflets and theatre, lawsuits and civil disobedience, we stood firmly to protect our place. On a bright day in November of 2013 we made our last stand. Spreading across the West Side Highway with banners and fish and animal puppets, we sang our solidarity with the river, with this ancient place which we inhabit, for now. We stopped traffic, and then we were arrested en masse. I love this place not only for its eternal fruitfulness and beauty, but also because of the struggles we have waged, and will continue to. From my place at the window, I watch the river as it changes in color from deep blue, to olive green, to dark grey. It is still possible to see the vastness of the great river flowing past, how it dwarfs the towering derricks and cranes. The children play on timelessly. I imagine that when the derricks and cranes are gone, and there is no more pipeline, the river will flow on.