A WALK THROUGH SOUTHPOINT PARK
Commentary by Judith Berdy
Photos by Brian Blazak
Roosevelt Island Historical Society President Judy Berdy shares her thoughts and some pictures from opening day at the new Southpoint Park.
Southpoint Park opened today (August 2, 2011) after years in the works. I stopped by briefly to see what has materialized from mounds of debris and acres of weeds. The approximately 7 acre park weaves south from the gate just south of Goldwater Hospital to the southern end of the Smallpox Hospital. The FDR Four Freedoms Park site is south and will open late in 2012.
Just outside the east gates and inside the west gates are cast iron columns salvaged from the City Hospital, which was on the site.
The stone walls (Fordham Gneiss) quarried on the Island and salvaged from the City Hospital form a serpentine low winding bench and/or fence through most of the park area.
Thanks to Alyce Russo, former RIOC Director of Planning, who stored the stones for future use.
Unfortunately the first structure you see is the comfort station, in blue and gray, two colors that have no relation to anything on Roosevelt Island. It is super size and great for school and camp groups.
Wide asphalt paved roads and paths make it easy for vehicles to use the roads. They seem a little wide and overwhelming in some areas.
The hills, which cover tons of rocks now, are gently sloping downwards and kids and teens seemed to love to run up and down them. The plantings are mostly wild flowers and black eyed Susan’s. No fancy lawns or gardens here.
Inter-spaced in the hills are remnants from the old hospital entrance including an orb that once signified the entrance to the Maternity Hospital on the site.
The cul-de-sac that will eventually include the FDR Hope Memorial has a lovely grove of trees surrounding it and overlooking the Smallpox Hospital.
The landmark Smallpox Hospital (not Renwick Ruin) is surrounded by a high fence and unfortunately the weeds and debris have not been removed from around it. This is a pity, since the building should be the showpiece of the park. Hopefully this will be remedied soon.
The landmark Strecker Memorial Laboratory just northeast shines with its wonderful restoration and it is pleasantly placed in a setting befitting this lovely structure.
It is not a cafe, but a power conversion station for the F and M subway lines. Perhaps it is the perfect site for a few tables and a Cappuccino Cart. Modern steel benches dot the area. They look out of place and a bit too modern for the classic site.
It is wonderful to watch the river from paths that were blocked by debris and overgrown vegetation for years. This may not be the High Line, but it is our new connection to the river and our southern tip. Considering all the convolutions the park went through, I am glad it is finally here!
For information on the landmark Smallpox Hospital and Strecker Laboratory go to www.rihs.us.