Monday, May 12, 2008

An Idea for the Safekeeping of Our Treasured Goddess of Freedom

Anybody been reading this long enough to remember when I posted this unusual view of the Statue of Liberty? I'm not sure whether I'm flattered or concerned if that's the case & you aren't someone I've paddled with - but wow, thanks.

For the rest of you, it was on a glorious early Spring day in 2006 when some friends and I paddled out to the Robbin's Reef Light, with a lunch break in Port Liberte (known to the Rustbucket crew as "Venice on the Hudson"). Coming back, we took the small channel that the 150 yard security zones around the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island leave between the two landmarks.

I can't remember exactly why we took that that day. I was going to say that it was probably because I wanted to take this picture, but I think we were facing one of those massive Spring ebbs (not spring tide, spring ebb, when the snowmelt from the Hudson Valley watershed turns the mighty Muhheakunuk - the River that Flows Both Ways - into a one-way rocket ride with a barely discernable slowdown where the flood is strongest) and to back to the south of the Statue was going to mean another mile busting straight into the full current when we were already pretty tired.

The other time that that channel comes in very handy for kayakers traversing the Statue's vicinity is on a perfect summer day, when the area in front of the Statue is a perfect scrum of bigger boats, all of whom are looking at the Statue, not the tiny little kayaks who are squeezing along as close to the security zone marker buoys as they can without getting squeezed right into the zone and a significant fine. For local paddlers who have plenty of chances to see the Statue when there's less competition, it's not worth the risk & stress on the busiest days - instead, we take the back way - that keeps us almost entirely out from underfoot.

Now, however, the security zones throughout the harbor are under review for possible revision.

Many of the proposals sound sensible, but the one that's drawn the attention of many of the area's recreational boaters - human and wind powered alike - is the proposal concerning the zones around the Statue and Ellis Islands. The US Park Police would like to see that zone expanded from the current 150 yards to 400 yards.

This would eliminate that channel between the two landmarks; the scrum among the harbor cruises would be intensified (when I worked on a local passenger schooner, our skippers would frequently choose to stay outside the melee on the busiest days - the passengers would be a little disappointed, but the view is still pretty marvelous at 200 yards - at 400, I suspect the customer disappointment when the boat fails to shave the buoys is going to be much higher); and the number of tugs, barges & other working vessels that cut through that mass of sightseers is going to rise as the tourist crowd is pushed farther out into the Anchorage Channel (the main channel from the Verranzano Narrows Bridge to the Hudson).

On top of that - the difference between 150 and 400 yards is literally a split-second to a powerful motorboat. Even less to a small plane.

I'd finally had time to work my way through the notice tonight & was mulling the issue over this evening. It is a conundrum - absolutely, there's a need for security around such important icons of our nation's history - but at the same time, I think that the proposed expansion of the zones would significantly decrease both the safety and enjoyment of the thousands of people who visit the Statue each year on boats other than the official Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island ferries, while providing only a marginal increase in safety from terrorist attacks.

It is a tough call - but I believe that I may have come up with a solution - and it's quite in tune with the history of the Statue.

Remember the stories of how when France first presented us with this magnificent gift, somehow there wasn't enough money to be found for a pedestal - until the freedom-loving schoolchildren of this country began sending in their pennies, and the shamed adults followed suit?

Well, just think today of all the freedom-loving bikers, hikers, college students, kayakers, rafters, campers, etc. who find themselves in possession of Nalgene bottles they're afraid to use -

What if they all sent those bottles to the US Parks Service to be remade to a new purpose - a magnificent, sparkling dome of recycled Lexan, under which our beloved symbol of freedom can be safely preserved for generations to come?

I leave interpretion of Freedom under glass to the artistic. A lowly cog and number-cruncher, I...

But seriously, folks - I can only keep tongue in cheek for so long on something like this. If you are a New York City boater, and you are familiar with the motor vessel gridlock that sets in around the Statue on a nice summer day - just think about what it would be like if you push that whole mess 250 yards further out into the channel, and close off some of the few sheltered areas that the current zones do leave open to smaller craft. If you think I have a point - please, go read the full proposal (thanks again to the NYCKayaker folks for posting & discussing!) - then, on or before July 7th:

"...submit comments identified by Coast Guard docket number USCG-2007-0074 to the Docket Management Facility at the U.S. Department of Transportation. To avoid duplication, please use only one of the following methods:
(1) Online:
(2) Mail: Docket Management Facility (M-30), U.S. Department of Transportation, West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE., Washington, DC 20590-0001.
(3) Hand delivery: Room W12-140 on the Ground Floor of the West Building, 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE., Washington, DC 20590, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays. The telephone number is 202-366-9329.
(4) Fax: 202-493-2251.
You must also send comments on collection of information to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Office of Management and Budget. To ensure that the comments are received on time, the preferred method is by e-mail at or fax at 202-395-6566. An alternate, though slower, method is by U.S. mail to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Office of Management and Budget, 725 17th Street, NW., Washington, DC 20503, ATTN: Desk Officer, U.S. Coast Guard."

This is encouraged in the notice itself!

"We encourage you to participate in this rulemaking by submitting comments and related materials. All comments received will be posted, without change, to and will include any personal information that you have provided. We have an agreement with the Department of Transportation (DOT) to use the Docket Management Facility."

p.s. people who saw this early on may notice I changed the name of the post. When I sat down to write it, I actually thought it was going to be funnier.

hate it when that happens...

1 comment:

bowsprite said...

I believe this post has shamed them into action...the security buoys are gone, you can walk up to the head, and even rent the island for private corporate parties. Woohoo! Viva les pixels!