As you stand on the cusp of the East River, overlooking the striking Manhattan skyline, you might find it hard to imagine that until 2012, this panoramic view was not accessible to Greenpoint's residents. Transmitter Park has undergone a significant transformation over the past three decades, like much of Brooklyn's waterfront.
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Take a moment to reflect: this land was once a natural estuary, the lifeblood of the Keskachuague, Greenpoint's first nation. For them, it was a vibrant fishing and hunting ground until the Dutch colonists changed the landscape. Two centuries later, this tranquil setting inspired Alpheus Rollins, a humble carpenter, to build a rudimentary ferry—more a rowboat with a sail—that connected Greenpoint's people with the other side of the East River.
Greenpoint's ferry infrastructure is a quiet testament to the bygone industrial revolution that once transformed this serene estuary into a bustling shipbuilding center. The industrious hum remained a part of Greenpoint's life well into the 1930s when WNYC, New York's public radio station, relocated its two transmitter towers here to escape the radio-interfering skyscrapers of Manhattan.
Fast-forward to 1990, WNYC moved their AM transmitter to the Meadowlands, leaving behind a park-in-waiting. Finally, after 20 years and a hefty $12 million investment, Greenpoint's residents were gifted with an enchanting pier, a sprawling lawn, and an unobstructed view of the iconic Manhattan skyline.
You'll also spot a mural in the neighborhood showcasing a woman leisurely lounging on the grass. This thought-provoking public art, titled "Love Me, Love Me Not," is the brainchild of a collective known as Faile, and environmental group the Greenest Point. It urges you to consider our often-tumultuous relationship with the environment, while the pattern on the woman's socks pays tribute to Greenpoint’s Polish enclave.
But the story of Transmitter Park isn't complete. Even as you soak in the serene surroundings, looming shadows of development threaten the park’s future. Developers have staked a claim on a significant tract along Greenpoint Avenue. It won't be long before the esplanade is overshadowed by looming residential buildings. Transmitter Park's journey reminds us that urban development is not always linear, often marked by loss and rebirth, neglect, and revitalization. It poses a question: as we strive for progress, what do we leave behind and at what cost?
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