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January 8, 2010

can you see the sea?

by Liz Neves

Brooklyn 1766

From where I live, I can hear cruise ships sound warnings in the night. I can see sea gulls pausing in church towers. Sometimes, I think I can even smell the sea, or at least feel its misty kiss.

But from where I live, in my apartment or on terra firma (the sidewalk outside) I cannot see from where these signs come. I cannot see the sea.

For perspective, I live a block away from the second highest point in Brooklyn and about 1.5 miles from the Bay as the crow flies. If I got on my roof, I’d view slivers of the East River, bits of New York Harbor, a slice of the Verrazano Narrows. But I don’t have access.

The view from my window.

Over the last two centuries, Brooklyn boomed. Lots of fairly flat farmland and easy access to the surrounding waterways made it appealing to the 17th century Dutch settlers (and of course the Native Indian people before them) and then the British shortly after. What was farmland and before that field and forest is now hardscape. Concrete, brick, mortar, asphalt, glass, steel. Not much permeability, and very little visibility.

New York City is surrounded by water, but you’d be hard-pressed to see it unless you crossed a bridge, made your way to the outermost edges of each borough, took a ride on the Staten Island Ferry or a water taxi. It’s easy to forget that water is all around us.

Harbor views are saved for those with roof decks and those who work or live in high-rise buildings. So, how can the rest of us enjoy the sparkly flow of the East River, the majesty of New York Harbor? A couple of ideas:

Periscopes

If there were a periscope on every block, we’d all get to enjoy a lovely liberty sunset. Check out this nice periscope from an old issue of Popular Mechanics.

Observation towers

This tower has multiple vantage points, so we could all get a piece of the view.
[Killesberg Observation Tower, Schlaich, Bergermann and Partners]

How about this dual-purpose wind turbine tower?

Look, there’s already one in Fort Greene Park. Now how do I get up there?

If we all had a view of the water around us, maybe we’d be more careful about how we treat it. Maybe we’d preserve it, and not pollute it. Maybe we’d think about what we let go down the drain, and prevent trash and chemical run-off from entering storm drains. Maybe.

Can you see the sea, a lake, or stream from where you live? Does it inspire you?

Yahya E. B. Henry

About Yahya E. B. Henry

Merging his passion for cities, real estate, tech and travel, Yahya is introducing the world to a new model of real estate development that draws from best practices around the globe.

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5 Comments

  • Liz, great post. I moved to Augusta, GA from Hampton Roads, VA (Virginia Beach, Norfolk) where we were literally surrounding by natural environments. Somehow I took for granted what I had access to everyday until I relocated to a place that essentially landlocked.

    The Elizabeth & Lynnhaven Rivers and the Atlantic Ocean were all very inspirational. Crossing the Elizabeth was apart of my commute to Yorktown. It was almost ritualistic because it help prepare me for my day. Thank you for the insight.

  • It's too easy to get lost in the details of every day life and forget how to observe what is around us. It takes time and effort to slow down and appreciate our surroundings.

    I'd say you were aware of what you had, maybe you just miss it? Sounds like you had a lovely commute!

  • It really was. Also traveled the HRBT (see below):
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hampton_Roads_Brid

  • Quite a feat of engineering. When we visit my family in Virginia Beach we always use the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. It's fun to stop at the visitor's center and see where bridge turns into tunnel, disappearing into the bay.

  • Quite a feat of engineering. When we visit my family in Virginia Beach we always use the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. It's fun to stop at the visitor's center and see where bridge turns into tunnel, disappearing into the bay.

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