Sunday, March 14, 2010

Orchard Beach: A Transplanted Oceanfront

I purchased Robert Caro’s The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York in 2007 with every intention of diving right in. But all 1,246 pages of that tome have sat on a bookshelf for the past three years. I never even cracked it. That was until last week, when I eagerly foraged through its index for information on Orchard Beach in the Bronx.

Before Robert Moses got to it, the beach was a narrow pebbly sand bar that linked Rodman Neck and Hunters Island, two of the easternmost landmasses of the Bronx in Pelham Bay Park. Moses reconceived Orchard Beach by connecting Rodman Neck, Hunters Island and the Twin Islands (east
of Hunters Island) using fill and white sand dredged from the Rockaways to create 115 acres of parkland and a mile-long crescent-shaped beach. The result, even seen from satellite photos, seems otherworldly.

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What I'm beginning to understand from Caro's book is that Moses was practically an unstoppable force. He rearranged the city with a confidence fed by brilliance and arrogance. The pebbly sand of the Long Island Sound wasn’t good enough for Moses, so he simply transported tons upon tons of white sand from oceanfront Queens. Ecosystem, shmecosystem.

This type of urban planning would never fly today, but I can’t wait to check out Orchard Beach for myself this summer.

More, I'm sure, to follow on Robert Moses....

1 comment:

  1. IMO, the best part about Orchard Beach is the Twin Island and Hunter Island Preserves. One of the largest and most accessible salt marshes and rocky shorelines in western Long Island Sound.