There goes New York
The sea level was supposed to rise “in a hundred years”. Then on Monday it happened.
Manhattan island had a world record thirteen feet of water above the high tide level come up and over the southern wall into Battery Park, a few hundred yards from the headquarters of Goldman Sachs. Manhattan island, the Athens of the modern world, was going under water. New York City was founded by the Dutch in one of the greatest natural paradises in the New World, where the Hudson, our greatest undammed river
(a fiord actually), flows down its Western boundary, and meets the East River, the western outlet of Long Island Sound, where the Atlantic Ocean returns to the sea, creating one of the great natural harbors of the Earth. Waters from the Hudson came over the island from the West, reaching Tenth Avenue and flooding the new art center in Chelsea. Waters from the East River came in from the other direction covering Avenues D,C,B and A, on which I have an apartment. The Con Ed plant at 14th street and FDR drive on the East River exploded. Over in Queens, near the real Atlantic Ocean, one hundred homes that were surrounded by water, so no fire trucks could reach them, burned to the ground as their electrical boxes exploded.
To give this a human touch, the great journalist Susan Meiselas has a studio in a basement on Mott street below Houston, across from the church made famous in Mean Streets. Had the water reached there, everything in it, computers, hard drives, books, prints and manuscripts would have been toast. It did not. Basements on Spring street, 100 yards south, were flooded. Mark di Suvero’s studio is at Hell’s Gate in Queens, where the East River meets the Harlem River. Socrates Park, which he created is there at waters edge. Socrates was underwater, as was his studio. The waters “surge” was so powerful on 10th avenue that it destroyed the basement of the Gallery Churner and Churner at 22nd street. On the ground floor I have a show of silver prints hanging, a long with original maquettes (paper) and a 9 foot wall board covered with prints from my old studio. Wallboard is chalk. The water reached Tenth Avenue, came in through the front door, but was not high enough there to reach the art work.
In the 1990’s I raised a punk son who would go to grade school with T-shirts that had a fist coming out of a toilet. I would say “You’re wearing that to school?”. I would lose the arguments. He would counter with “Bush is worse than Hitler!” Of course Jewish people, do not like to think anyone will ever top Hitler as the number one evil killer.
But what about “Climate change”? How many people will that kill? Obama continues to be silent on the subject during the election. Will this change? Will we go down as
“worse than Hitler” by posterity because of what we caused, about which we do nothing?
Pressed in war, Athens built the Long Walls. It stretched for ten miles from the city on the hill (The Parthenon) to Piraeus, the boat basin on the Aegean that was home to the Athenian Navy. You can still see pieces of this wall today. Since it has two sides, there was twenty miles of wall, about what we need to ring Lower Manhattan. The Athenians built the walls quickly, trying to hide their activity from their enemies, and you can see this in the poorly laid rubble that remains.
Manhattan needs to build a sea wall now. And by doing so the people of New York City, our Athenians, can show that now is the time, the new world is here, and that without confronting it, there will be no future.