Silent spring at the River Cafe thanks to Waterfalls project

for The Brooklyn Paper
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The Weeping Birches at the River Cafe have a reason for real tears this spring — even as other trees are already sporting buds, many of the famed eatery’s branches remain lifeless, a lingering wound from Olafur Eliasson’s arborcidal artwork, “New York City Waterfalls.”

“It doesn’t look good,” said Maureen Andariese, head of flowers and gardens at the restaurant, as he showed off several dry, brown trees in what is usually a verdant Eden surrounding the waterfront eatery under the Brooklyn Bridge.

It is the restaurant’s very proximity to the fabled span that is causing the lingering problems.

One of the four salt-water-spewing behemoths from Eliasson’s public arts project was situated directly under the Brooklyn side of the bridge. And on most days over the course of the three-month, $15-million public art project, a brackish mist lashed the River Cafe’s beloved trees.

All summer long, trees not only at the restaurant, but also near other Eliasson “waterfalls” along the Brooklyn Heights Promenade and on Governors Island, showed severe damage.

When the project’s taps were finally tightened, tree experts hoped that the foliage would bounce back. But it has been a silent spring, so far, at the River Cafe.

“Just look at these three weeping birches — there’s no sign of life at all,” said General Manager Scott Stamford, as he led a Brooklyn Paper reporter on a fact-finding mission. “And this ornamental crabapple tree — it’s one of the most beautiful trees here, and it’s nowhere near where it should be at this time of year.”

Stamford said that even a few buds don’t necessarily mean that his trees will recover.

“A dying tree will show some activity — it’s a slow process sometimes — so every season we may see fewer and fewer signs of life,” he said.

Less-resilient bushes and shrubbery were hit especially hard.

“The wisteria is done for,” said Andariese, gesturing to the shriveled brown vines that are supposed to produce purple blossoms. She also pointed out the sad looking brown bushes at her feet that are usually green by this time of year.

And if the damage is permanent?

“Well, the lawyers will have to figure that out,” said Stamford.

Mark Thompson, owner of the neighboring Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory strolled by as Stamford and Andariese were inspecting the greenery.

“Imagine if the ‘Waterfalls’ were put on the Potomac in Washington instead, and they ruined the cherry blossoms,” Thompson said. “People would be furious. It’s the same thing here. People in Brooklyn look forward to seeing these trees in bloom every year, and they are going to be disappointed if that doesn’t happen.”

Updated 5:12 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Dave from Carroll Gardens says:
Not only were the waterfalls ugly, now they are damaging the plant life in the city
April 1, 2009, 1:48 pm
Publius from Bklyn Hgts says:
Whoever insured the Waterfalls should be approached and if necessary sued to compensate the City and any private owner for damages to their floral property.

This type of property damage is likely covered under an umbrella policy that the artist must have had in order to install this project.
April 1, 2009, 3:41 pm
Michael D. D. White from Brooklyn Heights says:
This story should have made a least some reference to Mayor Michael Bloomberg who masterminded the Waterfalls as a pet project, including diverting $2 million in 9/11 disaster recovery money for its funding. He led and directed almost all the $15.5 million in funding for it and then gave his pet project a (self-congratulatory) city award notwithstanding the damage it did.

It was probably because of Bloomberg’s involvement that there wasn’t an environmental impact statement or assessment ahead of time sufficient to identify the damage that was likely.

In addition to the diverted disaster recover money, funding came from Bloomberg’s private “charity”and from a City Hall “charity” Bloomberg controls by being mayor and then from a long list of mostly real estate industry interests like Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner who benefit terrifically from discretionary decisions made by the Bloomberg administration.

The kicker is that the recipient of all this money, Susan Freedman, president of the Public Art Fund, appeared to testify in support of the Bloomberg-proposed special extension of term limits.

For more on this See: Wednesday, October 15, 2008, Self-Congratulation “Befalls” a Man Who Would Know No Limits.

Michael D. D. White
Noticing New York
April 6, 2009, 5:50 pm
Michael D. D. White from Brooklyn Heights says:
As noted above, the New York Waterfalls were paid for with all sorts of “charitable”monies routed to the Public Art Fund by Michael Bloomberg. In a front page article about Bloomberg’s abuse of charities for political purposes, the New York Times reported on testimony by Susan Freedman, president of the Public Art Fund, in support of the Bloomberg-proposed special extension of term limits. The Brooklyn Paper also had previously run important stories about the abuse of charities for political purposes.

For more about how all these stories interweave see: Monday, October 20, 2008, “Charity?” We Begin to Groan.

Michael D. D. White
Noticing New York
April 6, 2009, 6:51 pm

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