Lincoln Park In Autumn

October 27, 2009

A fleeting moment on a warm sunny day in the
South End at the end of October

I was driving through Lincoln Park in the middle of the day when I noticed out of the corner of my eye that Martin Luther King was on fire. I glanced again and this time the great martyred hero seemed to be striding forward with the flames of righteousness rising up behind him.

Martin Luther King Statue in Lincoln Park, Albany, NY

Every so often I remember to notice how utterly damn beautiful is this park that sits practically outside my front door. Every year when the leaves turn color and fall off the trees I get not exactly sad, more like surly at the prospect of all those months of blinding snow, deadly cold and Christmas. But first, before all that miserableness descends upon us, we can take solace in a few moments of splendor if we can take the time to notice.

Maple Trees Along Morton Avenue Maple Trees Along Morton Avenue

The color yellow seems to predominate around my neighborhood this year. During the day the air around my neighborhood is permeated with a soft, yellow light that my camera cannot seem to capture. At dusk this effect intensifies until the light fades into gray and black.

Lincoln Park, Albany, NY

I was well into my adulthood when I learned to my surprise that this kind of spectacular autumn leaf coloring only occurs in three parts of the world, in our part of North America, parts of Northern Europe and in parts of East Asia. Having grown up with fall leaves they seemed mundane, I could never understand why anyone would travel somewhere to “leaf peep” when they could just look around their own neighborhoods.

About a block from my house across from the Stewarts on Morton Avenue is a great lookout point with a couple of benches from which you can survey the whole park. There in the grass is of all things a plaque dedicated to the memory of John Lennon. It seems to have held up pretty well for the last twenty years, although there’s a few chips along the edges and the dedication is marred by an advertisement for a corporate owned radio station.

Lincoln Park, Albany, NY Click On Photo To Read The Plaque

The slope of the lookout point is very steep, in winter it becomes famous as Suicide Hill, the sledder’s ultimate thrill. After a serious snowfall parents bring their kids from far and wide to face certain death plunging into the bowl of Lincoln Park. I found it impossible to get a good snapshot of the sheer drop, but here’s a good view of the perspective from the top:

View Down Suicide Hill: Yikes! View Down Suicide Hill: Yikes!

At the bottom of the park is a giant bowl where are located several playing fields. Until recently the fields were circumnavigated by a crumbling roadway that had been left to decay. Several years ago the City administration finally became embarrassed by their policy of neglect of the roadway and did some basic maintenance and repair.

Lincoln Park, Albany, NY The Never Finished Road

One half of the loop road, the southern half closest to my side of the park, was converted into a “multi-use path” which is closed to automobiles. You can see part of the path in the above photo. You can see that the granite curbstones of the old road were left in place, and grass was planted between the old curbs and the new path.

The far side of the loop was left as a road to provide auto access to the playing fields and the pool. However, as can be seen at left, the City never finished paving the remaining roadway, and at this point it looks like the City has no intention of ever finishing the job. This attitude toward the South End is typical, I couldn’t imagine the City applying a similar policy of neglect toward Washington Park.

Lincoln Park does not routinely host large events as does Washington Park, I think the last large musical event was a Ramones concert 20 years ago. But the playing fields are used regularly from early spring to late fall by a variety of amateur sports leagues. The majority of these players are suburbanites who must come to our City because they have no public space or facilities out in their automobile slums.

Lincoln Park, Albany, NY Part Of The Playing Fields At The Bottom Of The Bowl

The permanently unfinished roadway on the far side is a pleasant hideaway all year round. During the week some folks like to drive their cars down here for a quiet lunch or to walk their dogs. On most days you can watch a steady trickle of runners trot past, both us locals and State workers from the suburbs.

North Side Of The Bowl North Side Of The Bowl

The road leads to Lincoln Park Pool, one of the largest outdoor pools in the world. Google Maps erroneously calls it “Lincoln Park Pond.” Earlier this decade the citizens who live around the park came out en masse in the pouring rain to demand that Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings drop His scheme to destroy the pool and privatize the site. That’s why we still have the pool. Right now it’s empty and ready for winter.

Lincoln Park Pool Ready For Winter Lincoln Park Pool Ready For Winter

I climbed out of the bowl and crossed MLK Boulevard (S. Swan St.) to check out the ravine, the old bed of the Beaverkill. The leaves on the slender trees down there had not turned yet, perhaps this is because of the sheltered location. Despite this, fallen leaves had already drifted down and partially covered the exposed shale walls that made this spot a tourist attraction some one hundred years ago.

The Ravine The Ravine

It had rained a few days ago so I could hear the Beaverkill roaring underground at the exposed grate and at the manhole cover in the middle of MLK Boulevard. As usual, it stank of sewage. As I wrote earlier this year, the Beaverkill is used today to transport raw untreated sewage from Albany Med and Park South directly into the Hudson River.

The other night I learned that the Beaverkill is effectively used as a sewage overflow as far uptown as the SUNY Albany campus, via pumping station. SUNY is building several sprawl-style expansion projects that will probably dump their toilets into this line. If that happens, their sewage will come up in Washington Park Lake before it arrives in Lincoln Park and overflows into the ravine.

Lincoln Park, Albany, NY

The squirrels that live in and around Lincoln Park are about twice the size of their country cousins, surely that is due to a steady nutritious diet gleaned from the big lunch buckets set outside of all he houses around the park. Due to natural selection these squirrels usually dash straight across the roadways at top speed. The youngsters who act indecisive while crossing roads are rarely seen anymore after early spring.

Lincoln Park, Albany, NY

I walk around Lincoln Park and wonder why the South End has such a bad reputation among outsiders, where does this come from? For instance, the crime rate is much higher in Washington Park. Over the years I’ve sat in plenty of meetings and listened to desultory discussions about what can be done to counter this bad image.

I sit and shake my head, to me the reasons are obvious. Certainly the City’s long standing policy of neglect is to blame, that policy is just beginning to reverse now. But the continuing bad rap is steadily maintained by the corporate media outlets, all of which are based in the suburbs.

This summer I had an opportunity to ask TV news anchor Ken Screven to please stop calling the South End a bad place to live, which I can only hope he has done. And this past week the Hearst-owned Times Union assigned two of their content providers to follow around some chronic alcoholic who apparently spends time wandering the South End. The managers of the rag used this week-long series as an excuse to repeatedly attack our neighborhoods.

Those of us who live here know better. I guess the Hearst managers are afraid that if people “discover” urban places like the South End then the property values in their own unsustainable automobile slums will go down. Why else do they put so much effort into degrading us?

Perhaps their propaganda helps keep rents low and our 150 year old houses affordable. Maybe. But really, enough is enough. We like living here for plenty of reasons. Witness how these suburbanites drive their vehicles so often to our City to experience public spaces and public amenities such as Lincoln Park. Where else can they go?

Lincoln Park, Albany, NY


Prior Post * * * Next Post