Saturday, October 13, 2012

Lookin' Good, Yonkers!

"Once there were parking lots, 
Now it's a peaceful oasis" - Talking Heads, Nothing But Flowers

This WAS a parking lot. Now it's a park with a river. The Sawmill River, to be precise, which has been newly "daylighted" after being buried in the 1920's. I haven't been to Yonkers in ages, last time I was there, this really was a parking lot. Amazing!

Here's the new first view of Yonkers as you leave the train station.
I was meeting Pat from the Yonkers Paddling and Rowing Club today, so I was distracted and looking up the street for a car when I walked out; I then realized that she wasn't in a car at all, I'd nearly walked into her on the sidewalk and when I saw her I was even LESS thinking of looking across the street, so she really got to almost "unveil" this new heart of downtown for me by telling me "Remember what you used to see when you would get to Yonkers?" and then turning me around. Glorious!

I'd never known this but Pat's done some tour guiding, and so I was lucky enough to get a "mini-tour". This wasn't what I was coming up for at all - I'd nearly gone last weekend, but then I realized that it had been ages since I had seen some of my Yonkers friends, and I knew they were out of town last weekend, so I waited for this weekend. So glad - my actual destination was closer to Glenwood, so not only would I not have gotten this special tour, there's a fair chance I would have missed this entirely!

A view from the library:

Closeup view of the mosaic centerpiece of the "Outdoor Classroom" area - it shows the lifecycle of the eel.

Information about the old/new centerpiece of Yonkers' downtown (click to read)

Best part of the mini-tour - Pat knows a spot where you've always been able to see the river as it ran along under Yonkers. It won't get daylighted here, there are buildings in active use built on top of it, but I actually found the contrast to be just fascinating.

Here's another interesting addition to the waterfront since the last time I was up here - the Science Barge (
Pat pointed it out to me, but we'd decided not to go on board, since we did have something else to go do. She'd said it was pretty interesting, though, and worth a visit sometime. Well, it's right next to the train station  and when I missed the 5:31 back to the city by a whisker and suddenly had another half hour, I decided to go take a look. 

Turned out that they were open until 6, so I went aboard and got shown around. Their website (which I linked to above) describes the barge as "a prototype, sustainable urban farm and environmental education center". They have greenhouses, power is supplied by wind turbines and large solar panel arrays, they compost, they collect and save rainwater, and they had a beautiful, healthy assortment of plants.

This display showed some of the different growing mediums that can be used for hydroponic gardening, plus an interesting assortment of things to get people thinking outside of the usual box - they had a coconut as an example of a seed that might be a little bigger than a person usually pictures a seed as being (also one of the growth mediums was made from coconut husk, so that was a dual-purpose prop), and an artichoke as an example of a flower that no one would ever picture when told to picture a flower - interesting stuff.

Here's a very healthy "lettuce factory" (my term) - all hydroponic, with lettuce in orderly stages from seedlings right up to harvest-ready. I think the tanks in the background are the water storage. 

Looking back into another section - they were growing some beautiful tomatoes and cucumbers back there. I thought I was doing a pretty good job of maximing my little 4x6 plot by coaxing everything that could go vertical to go vertical. I do do OK on the cukes (when they don't die of heat prostration in August, anyways), but looking at this setup, I could get those even taller and I'm totally letting my tomatoes stay too low - these suckers are, like 8 feet high! 

And here's maybe the thing I got the most excited about on the barge - look, it's sleeping grass! Sleeping grass was is one of the plants featured in one of my personal favorite posts on this entire long and winding blog, Playing with Plants, Hawaii Nostalgia Continued, in which I went through a few of the plants I used to literally play with when I was a kid growing up in Hawaii (first plant post, Na Pua O Ka Honua, was also good, I thought, but a lot more Serious - I do really like that those both still get very regular hits). They had this specimen by the door and when I spotted it as I turned to leave, I recognized it instantly, shouted "Sleeping grass!" and ran over and started petting it. It was a little sluggish, the folks on the barge said it slows down when it cools down. They were interested to find out that it's called "Sleeping Grass" in Hawai'i. Best part of sleeping grass in Yonkers? I asked them what it was for, expecting it to be another educational display - well, they started laughing and said "It's for fun. Some things on the science barge are just for fun." Loved it.

And with that, it was time for them to close and for me to head home. 

So long, Yonkers. See you again soon, I hope! 

Oh...and my original destination?  It was as neat as I'd expected to be, and I would've had a fine day even if I HAD gone last week & missed all the new stuff in Yonkers because I'd gone on to Glenwood, but I'll have to come back to that. This post is long enough as is, the hour is late, and I need to get some sleep if I'm going to go dinghy racing tomorrow (only 2 more left in the Fall Series and I'm hoping I can manage to do both). 


Anonymous said...

We saw the train & hoped you'd made it. But clearly you made lemonaid out of that lemon! Thanks for inviting us along on the adventure. Pat

bonnie said...

Yes, it worked out very nicely! Glad you were free & that Mark was able to join us, that was an excellent day.

Yonkers/Sebago joint paddle is 2 weeks from today, I think I'll do that.

Keep Reaching said...

Wow, what a difference - I lived in Yonkers in the early 80s and I sure don't remember it looking like that.
Thanks for the update.

bonnie said...

You're welcome - it's pretty amazing. Last time I was up there I was kind of dismayed that they'd put up these apartments between the river and the train station, 'cause I'd always thought that that knock-your-eyes-out view of the Hudson from the train station was Yonkers' best asset (train station itself is also pretty nice of course, Pat told me it was by the same architect as Grand Central, no wonder I've always liked it so much!). Still not crazy about those but they aren't quite the unbroken palisade of building I'd been recalling, from certain spots on the platform you can still see a slice, and it looks like what's been done since then is pretty cool. Looks a lot better that it did when I was last there in the 00's.