So as mentioned previously, the Prison Ship Martyrs' Monument celebrated it's centennial by lighting up for the first time in
Last Friday and Saturday's unveiling featured artistic presentations, musical performances and an number of events which I slept through and missed because Saturday was like a gray scab on the day, except for 20 minute swath of sun 'round noon.
In culmination wreaths were laid and the eternal flame (consisting of an electric light and mirror system) was "re-lit".
For those who may not know the Monument is a memorial to colonists imprisoned in hellish conditions on prison ships moored in the East River during the Revolutionary War. More details here.
However I did go up last night, moth like to flame, and snapped these shots of the tower since as it now and intended to be every evening from here on.
My first recollections of the monument was seeing it through the Ft. Greene Park trees as a kid when my grandmother and I drove her giant 1972 blue Plymouth Satellite (think of the police cars in "Life on Mars" or "The Dukes of Hazzard") down DeKalb on the way to the Dime Savings Bank. By age 14 I'd started pushing my boundaries, exploring further from home and on the list was to finally see what was in this park that everyone had warned me away from.
I'd never experienced crime at that point but it was assumed fact that you risked your life in most NYC parks after dark in the 70's and crime in Fort Greene park was spoken of with certainty in those days. So, no fool I; my first visit was in broad daylight when I cut high school.
Coming up from DeKalb Av, I was greeted by and stared hormonally at the Brooklyn Tech girls doing calisthenics in their shorts of temptation. Somehow I managed to get over that hill to and made my way to a different kind of peak.
I was really stunned when I reached the base of the monument because of the way the view of lower Manhattan, so neatly framed by trees, expanded out in front of me. Somewhere I know I have the worn photos I took from that day looking out at that much less crowded skyline, with the clear exception of those two twin towers contradictorily an arms reach and forever away.
The space was more enormous than I had previously experienced in the city. It was like someone had removed a wall I never knew existed. I felt slightly ashamed because my mind's way of comprehending the view was to tell myself that it wasn't real, that I was watching TV. Despite being a teenager, being "frum" here, born here, raised here, despite traveling to "the City" many times, up to that moment I hadn't really felt that I lived in the New York City I saw in movies and on TV.
The view from the base as it looks today, it's changing everyday with the building
of the Toren condo and several others on the physical and metaphorical horizon.
That sounds a little dense I know but I had never seen that vista open up before me. Being a city kid, my city kid experience was about getting into a train in a hole in the ground (because most New Yorkers loath driving in the city of course) and emerging surrounded by glass, steel, hustle and bustle with the briefest of blue sky rectangular shapes overhead. That perception changed when I walked up the hill to the base of that monument, seeing that iconic lower Manhattan view made me really see that I lived in New York City and once my vision and mind opened I knew I needed to explore the city in ways I never had considered.
Also as teen I wondered what the point of the tower was. It seemed too needlessly large for a headstone, and I noticed the bronzed structure atop and wondered what it could be used for.
There always seemed to be something missing, last week was when I learned that the completed refurbishing of the monument included the top lightening and then of course it all made sense.
It is a really startlingly attractive scene, I'm not certain the photos even do it justice. I recommend anyone who lives within view should really take a peak toward the downtown area of Brooklyn after sunset and try to spy that shining point of light. It's somewhat easy to spot surrounded as it is by the contrasting grove of Ft Greene Park's trees. It's a good look that I found to be serene and appropriately illuminating.