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Speaking of global issues

Saturday was an exciting day for the HWL project. After drawing the chalk line through the financial district, I was going to spend the day not walking and talking, but pretty much staying in one place and meeting the people passing through.

I was up early to load up the ZipCar with all of the beacons and equipment to install the illuminated beacons in Battery Park. After a number of people said I wouldn’t get a permit to install in the park, I got enthusiastic support from the Battery Park Conservancy and City Councilman Gerson’s office and was able to install the beacons and chalk the line through the park. (It’s a good thing too, since I was indeed asked for permit proof for the first time in the project).

I installed around 40 beacons from the Greenwich Street entrance down almost to the water. I chalked from the East entrance of the park all the way to the water and then back along to Greenwich Street, chalking in between the beacons.

This line was interesting in some of the things that lay below it. Not only was Clinton Castle on the other side of the line, but also the Staten Island Ferry Building, the Governor’s Island Ferry Building, the Whitehall Street subway station and the Battery Tunnel - that’s a lot of transportation infrastructure.

After setting up the beacons, filling them with water and capping them off, I did the chalking with the assistance of my friends Sky and Margo. We spoke to some ladies visiting New York from Wisconsin and Florida, a couple from Long Island who had brought some friends to the Statue of Liberty, and a gentleman from India who was visiting on business.

He was very interested in the project because he felt that Americans were very much talking about environmental issues in comparison with India. He said that despite the severe weather events which they have faced, and the potential massive devastation that could occur with climate change, there was not a public discussion around environmental issues. Instead the entire country was obsessed with growth, development and acquisition of wealth. It’s too bad that developing countries don’t look at America and instead of thinking “we want all that” think maybe, we want more, but we want it in a better less devastating way.

As the day wore on, the crowds in the park ebbed, and as the sun was setting the TF1 crew came out again to see the beacons in the park. I went along the line of beacons and lit all of the led’s at the bases.

The beacons lit into a glowing blue line of light. I have to admit, I was stunned with the beauty of them. It was such an interesting contrast with the rest of the project - most of the chalking is noisy, interactive, always moving. The beacons are quiet, still and contemplative. The few people left in the park were enjoying the serenity of the beacons in the park. A gentleman from New Jersey who was on a bike ride, stayed in the park for an hour or so and enjoyed walking around and photographing the beacons. I also got to talk to a local resident for some time who really liked the installation in the park and appreciated the site-specificity of the work and the message which it brought to a diverse crowd of people visiting the park.

I really enjoyed watching the transition of the park over the day. Early in the morning I spoke with a man who fishes off the walkway on the water and a man who has been feeding the squirrels for years, and all the squirrels come to sit on and around him. Then the vendors started setting up and the Statue of Liberty guys came in and got on their costumes - they are all short large men in those outfits! Then the crowds started coming in and the buskers showed up. There is an amazing amount of cooperation between the various factions that operate down there - it is all very professional and friendly - they help each other out, take turns entertaining or taking breaks, etc. As the day drew to a close, the tourists disappeared, a truck showed up and took away all the vendor carts and the illegal bag salesmen filed in. Then it all emptied out and the locals were able to enjoy the peace and quiet of a beautiful waterfront park. It was a long day, but endlessly fascinating.

Sorry about the fuzzy beacon images, both Hose & I didn’t think to bring a tripod!

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